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THE PORTKAIT OF A LADY
THE PORTRAIT OF A UDT
HENRY JAMES, Jr.,
AUTHOR OF "THE EUROPEANS," ETC., ETC
IN THREE VOLUMES
MACMILLAN AND CO.
The Right of Tianslation and Reproduction i» Reseiicil.
as/. I ■ S6^
CL4T AND TAYLOR, PBIHTERS,
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
* SoMB fortnight after this incident Madame Merle drove up in
a hansom cab to the house in Winchester Square. As she
descended from her vehicle she observed, suspended between
the dining-room windows, a large, neat, wooden tablet, on whose
fresh black ground were inscribed in white paint the words —
" This noble freehold mansion to be sold ; " with the name of
the agent to whom application should be made. ^^ They certainly
lose no time," said the visitor, as, after sounding the big brass
knocker, she waited to be admitted ; " it's a practical country ! "
And within the house, as she ascended to the drawing-room,
she perceived numerous signs of abdication ; pictures removed
from the walls and placed upon sofas, windows undraped and
floors laid bare. Mrs. Touchett presently received her, and
intimated in a few words that condolences might be taken
** I know what you are going to say — he was a very good
man. But I know it better than any one, because I gave him
more chance to show it. In that I think I was a good wife."
Mrs. Touchett added that at the end her husband apparently
VOL. u. B
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
recognised this fact. " He has treated me liberally," she said ;
" I won't say more liberally than I expected, because I didn't
expect. You know that as a general thing I don't expect. But
he chose, I presume, to recognise the fact that though I lived
much abroad, and mingled — you may say freely — in foreign life,
I never exhibited the smallest preference for any one else."
" For any one but yourself," Madame Merle mentally observed;
but the reflection was perfectly inaudible.
" I never sacrificed my husband to another," Mrs. Touchett
continued, with her stout curtness.
" Oh no," thought Madame Merle ; " you never did anything
for another 1 "
There was a certain cynicism in these mute comments which
demands an explanation ; the more so as they are not in accord
either with the view — somewhat superficial perhaps — that we
have hitherto enjoyed of Madame Merle's character, or with the
literal facts of Mrs. Touchett's history ; the more so, too, as
Madame Merle had a well-founded conviction that her friend's
last remark was not in the least to be construed as a side-thrust
at herself. The truth is, that the moment she had crossed the
threshold she received a subtle impression that Mr. Touchett's
death had had consequences, and that these consequences had
been profitable to a little circle of persons among whom she
was not numbered. Of course it was an event which would
naturally have consequences; her imagination had more than
once rested upon this fact during her stay at Gardencourt. But
it had been one thing to foresee it mentally, and it was another
to behold it actually. The idea of a distribution of property —
she would almost have said of spoils — just now pressed upon
her senses and irritated her with a sense of exclusion. I am far
from wishing to say that Madame Merle was one of the hungry
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
ones of the world ; but we have abeady perceived that she had
desires which had never been satisfied. If she had been
questioned, she would of course have admitted — with a most
becoming smile — that she had not the faintest claim to a share
in Mr. Touchett*s relics. ** There was never anything in the
world between us," she would have said. "There was never
that, poor man ! " — with a fillip of her thumb and her third
finger. I hasten to add, moreover, that if her private attitude
at the present moment was somewhat incongruously invidious,
she was very careful not to betray herself. She had, after
all, as much sympathy for Mrs. Touchett's gains as for her
" He has left me this house," the newly-made widow said ;
"but of course I shall not live in it; I have a much better
house in Florence. The will was opened only three days since,
but I have already oflfered the house for sale. I have also a
share in the bank ; but I don't yet understand whether I am
obliged to leave it there. If not, I shall certainly take it out.
Ealph, of course, has Gardencourt ; but I am not sure that he
will have means to keep up the place. He is of course left very
well oflf, but his father has given away an immense deal of
money ; there are bequests to a string of third cousins in Ver-
mont. Ealph, however, is very fond of Gardencourt, and would
be quite capable of living there — in summer — with a maid-of-
all-work and a gardener's boy. There is one remarkable clause
in my husband's will," Mrs. Touchett added. " He has left my
niece a fortune."
" A fortune ! " Madame Merle repeated, softly.
" Isabel steps into something like seventy thousand pounds."
Madame Merle's hands were clasped in her lap ; at this she
raised them, still clasped, and held them a moment against her
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
bosom, -while her eyes, a little dilated, fixed themselves on those
of her friend. " Ah," she cried, " the clever creature ! "
Mrs. Touchett gave her a quick look. " What do you mean
by that ? "
For an instant Madame Merle's colour rose, and she dropped
her eyea "It certainly is clever to achieve such results —
without an effort ! "
** There certainly was no effort ; don't call it an achievement."
Madame Merle was rarely guilty of the awkwardness of
retracting what she had said ; her wisdom was shown rather in
maintaining it and placing it in a favourable light. " My dear
friend, Isabel would certainly not have had seventy thousand
pounds left her if she had not been the most charming girl in
the world. Her charm includes great cleverness."
" She never dreamed, I am sure, of my husband's doing any-
thing for her; and I never dreamed of it either, for he never
spoke to me of his intention," Mrs. Touchett said. " She had
no claim upon him whatever ; it was no great recommendation
to him that she was my niece. Whatever she achieved she
"Ah," rejoined Madame Merle, "those are the greatest
strokes ! "
Mrs. Touchett gave a shrug. " The girl is fortunate ; I don't
deny that. But for the present she is simply stupefied."
" Do you mean that she doesn't know what to do with the
money % **
"That, I think, she has hardly considered. She doesn't
know what to think about the matter at all. It has been as if
a big gun were suddenly fired off behind her; she is feeling
herself, to see if she be hurt. It is but three days since she
received a visit from the principal executor, who came in person,
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
very gallantly, to notify her. He told me afterwards that when
he had made his little speech she suddenly burst into tears.
The money is to remain in the bank, and she is to draw the
Madame Merle shook her head, with a wise, and now quite
benignant, smile. ** After she had done that two or three times
she will get used to it." Then aft«r a silence — " What does
your son think of it 1 " she abruptly asked.
" He left England just before it came out — used up by his
fatigue and anxiety, and hurrying off to the south. He is on
his way to the Riviera, and I have not yet heard from him. But
it is not likely he will ever object to anything done by his
" Didn't you say his own share had been cut down ? "
" Only at his wish. I know that he urged his father to do
something for the people in America. He is not in the least
addicted to looking after number one."
" It depends upon whom he regards as number one ! " said
Madame Merle. And she remained thoughtful a moment, with
her eyes bent upon the floor. " Am I not to see your happy
niece ? " she asked at last, looking up.
" You may see her ; but yqu will not be struck with her
being happy. She has looked as solemn, these three days, as a
Cimabue Madonna ! " And Mrs. Touchett rang for a servant.
Isabel came in shortly after the footman had been sent to call
her ; and Madame Merle thought, as she appeared, that Mrs.
Touchett's comparison had its force. The girl was pale and
grave — an effect not mitigated by her deeper mourning ; but the
smile of her brightest moments came into her face as she saw
Madame Merle, who went forward, laid her hand on our heroine's
shoulder, and after looking at her a moment, kissed her as if she
6 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
were returning the kiss that she had received from Isabel at
Gardencourt. This was the only allusion that Madame Merle,
in her great good taste, made for the present to her young friend's
Mrs. Touchett did not remain in London until she had sold
her house. After selecting from among its furniture those
objects which she wished to transport to her Florentine residence,
she left the rest of its contents to be disposed of by the
auctioneer, and took her departure for the Continent. She was,
of course, accompanied on this journey by her niece, who now
had plenty of leisure to contemplate the windfall on which
Madame Merle had covertly congratulated her. Isabel thought
of it very often and looked at it in a dozen diflPerent lights ; but
we shall not at present attempt to enter into her meditations or
to explain why it was that some of them were of a rather
pessimistic cast. The pessimism of this yoimg lady was tran-
sient ; she ultimately made up her mind that to be rich was a
virtue, because it was to be able to do, and to do was sweet. It
was the contrary of weakness. To be weak was, for a young
lady, rather graceful, but, after all, as Isabel said to herself,
there was a larger grace than that. Just now, it was true, there
was not much to do — once she had sent off a cheque to Lily and
another to poor Edith; but she was thankful for the quiet
months which her mourning robes and her aunt's fresh widow-
hood compelled the two ladies to spend. The acquisition of
power made her serious ; she scrutinised her power with a kind
of tender ferocity, but she was not eager to exercise it. She
began to do so indeed during a stay of some weeks which she
presently made with her aunt in Paris, but in ways that will
probably be thought rather vulgar. They were the ways that
most naturially presented themselves in a city in which the shops
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
we the admiration of the world, especially under the guidance of
Mrs. Touchett, who took a rigidly practical view of the trans-
fonnation of her niece from a poor girl to a rich one. ** Now
that you are a young woman of fortune you must know how to
play the part — I mean to play it well," she said to Isabel, once
for all ; and she added that the girUs first duty was to have
everything handsome. " You don't know how to take care of
your things, but you must learn," she went on ; this was Isabers
second duty. Isabel submitted, but for the present her imagin-
ation was not kindled ; she longed for opportunities, but these
were not the opportunities she meant.
Mrs. Touchett rarely changed her plans, and having intended
before her husband's death to spend a part of the winter in Paris
she saw no reason to deprive herself — still less to deprive her
companion — of this advantage. Though they would live in great
retirement, she might still present her niece, informally, to the
little circle of her fellow-countrymen dwelling upon the skirts of
the Champs Elysees. With many of these amiable colonists
Mrs. Touchett was intimate; she shared their expatriation,
their convictions, their pastimes, their ennui. Isabel saw them
come with a good deal of assiduity to her aunt's hotel, and
judged them with a trenchancy which is doubtless to be accounted
for by the temporary exaltation of her sense of human duty.
She made up her mind that their manner of life was superficial,
and incurred some disfavour by expressing this view on bright
Sunday afternoons, when the American absentees were engaged
in calling upon each other. Though her listeners were the most
good-natured people in the world, two or three of them thought
her cleverness, which was generally admitted, only a dangerous
variation of impertinence.
" You all live here' this way, but what does it all lead to 1 "
8 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
she was pleased to ask. " It doesn't seem to lead to anvthiigy
and I should think you would get very tired of it"
Mrs. Touchett thought the question worthy of Henrietta
Stackpole. The two ladies had found Henrietta in Paris, and
Isabel constantly saw her ; so that iMrs. Touchett had some
reason for saying to herself that if her niece were not clevftr
enough to originate almost anything, she might be suspected of
having borrowed that style of remark from her journalistic friend.
The first occasion on which Isabel had spoken was that of a visit
paid by the two ladies to Mrs. Luce, an old friend of Mrs.
Touchetfs, and the only person in Paris she now went to see.
Mrs. Luce had been living in Paris since the days of Louis
Philippe; she used to say jocosely that she was one of the
generation of 1830 — a joke of which the point was not always
taken. When it failed Mrs. Luce used always to explain — " Oh
yes, I am one of the romantics ; " her French had never become
very perfect. She was always at home on Sunday afternoons,
and surrounded by sympathetic compatriots, usually the same.
In fact she was at home at all times, and led in her well-cushioned
little comer of the brilliant city as quiet and domestic a life as
she might have led in her native Baltimore. The existence of
Mr. Luce, her worthy husband, was somewhat more inscrutable.
Superficially indeed, there was no mystery about it ; the mystery
lay deeper, and resided in the wonder of his supporting existence
at alL He was the most unoccupied man in Europe, for he not
only had no duties, but he had no pleasures. Habits certainly
he had, but they were few in number, and had been worn
threadbare by forty years of use. Mr. Luce was a tall, lean,
grizzled, well-brushed gentleman, who wore a gold eye-glass and
carried his hat a little too much on the back of his head. He
went every day to the American banker's, where there was a
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
post-office which was ahnost as sociable and colloquial an institu-
tion as that of an American country town. He passed an hour
(in fine weather) in a chair in the Champs Elys^es, and he dined
uncommonly well at his own table, seated above a waxed floor,
which it was Mrs. Luce^s happiness to believe had a finer polish
than any other in Paris. Occasionally he dined with a friend
or two at the Caf6 Anglais, where his talent for ordering a
dinner was a source of felicity to his companions and an object
of admiration even to the head-waiter of the establishment.
These were his only known avocations, but they had beguiled
his hours for upwards of half a century, and they doubtless
justified his frequent declaration that there was no place like
Paris. In no other place, on these terms, could Mr. Luce flatter
himself that he was enjoying life. There was nothing like Paris,
but it must be confessed that Mr. Luce thought less highly of
the French capital than in earlier days. In the list of his occu-
pations his political reveries should not be omitted, for they
were doubtless the animating principle of many hours that
superficially seemed vacant. Like many of his fellow colonists,
Mr. Luce was a high— or rather a deep — conservative, and gave
no countenance to the government recently established in France.
He had no faith in its duration, and would assure you from year
to year that its end was close at hand. " They want to be kept
down, sir, to be kept down ; nothing but the strong hand — the
iron heel — ^will do for them," he would frequently say of the
French people ; and his ideal of a fine government was that of
the lately-abolished Empire. "Paris is much less attractive
than in the days of the Emperor ; he knew how to make a city
pleasant,'* Mr. Luce had often remarked to Mrs. Touchett, who was
quite of his own way of thinking, and wished to know what one
had crossed that odious Atlantic for but to get away from republics.
10 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
"Why, madam, sitting in the Champs Ely sees, opposite to
the Palace of Industry, I have seen the court- carriages from the
Tuileries pass up and down as many as seven times a day. I
remember one occasion when they went as high as nine times.
What do you see now ] It's no use talking, the style's all gone.
!N"apoleon knew what the French people want, and there'll be a
cloud over Paris till they get the Empire back again."
Among Mrs. Luce's visitors on Sunday afternoons was a
young man with whom Isabel had had a good deal of convers-
ation, and whom she found fuU of valuable knowledge. Mr.
Edward Rosier — l^ed Rosier, as he was called — was a native of
"New York, and had been brought up in Paris, living there
under the eye of his father, who, as it happened, had been an
old and intimate friend of the late Mr. Archer. Edward Rosier
remembered Isabel as a little girl ; it had been his father who
came to the rescue of the little Archers at the inn at Keufchatel
(he was travelling that way with the boy, and stopped at the
hotel by chance), after their bonne had gone off with the Russian
prince and when Mr. Archer's whereabouts remained for some
days a mystery. Isabel remembered perfectly the neat little
male child, whose hair smelt of a delicious cosmetic, and who
had a bonne of his own, warranted to lose sight of him under no
provocation. Isabel took a walk with the pair beside the lake,
and thought little Edward as pretty as an angel — a comparison
by no means conventional in her mind, for she had a very
definite conception of a type of features which she supposed to
be angelic, and which her new friend perfectly illustrated. A
small pink face, surmounted by a blue velvet bonnet and set off
by a stiff embroidered collar, became the countenance of her
childish dreams ; and she firmly believed for some time after-
wards that the heavenly hosts converged among themselves in
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 11
a queer little dialect of French-English, expressing the properest
sentiments, as when Edward told her that he was " defended "
by his Ixmne to go near the edge of the lake, and that one must
always obey to one's bonne, Ned Hosier's English had im-
proved ; at least it exhibited in a less degree the French
variation. His father was dead and his bonne was dismissed,
but the young man still conformed to the spirit of their teaching
— ^he never went to the edge of the lake. There was still
something agreeable to the nostril about him, and something
not offensive to nobler organs. He was a very gentle and
gracious youth, with what are called cultivated tastes — an
acquaintance with old china^ with good wine, with the bindings
of books, with the Almanack de Gotha, with the best shops,
the best hotels, the hours of railway-trains. He could order a
dinner almost as well as Mr. Luce, and it was probable that as
his experience accumulated he would be a worthy successor to
that gentleman, whose rather grim politics he also advocated, in
a soft and innocent voice. He had some charming rooms in
Paris, decorated with old Spanish altar-lace, the envy of his
female Mends, who declared that his chimney-piece was better
draped than many a duchess. He usually, however, spent a
part of every winter at Pau, and had once passed a couple of
months in the United States.
He took a great interest in Isabel, and remembered perfectly
the walk at N"eufch4tel, when she would persist in going so near
the edge. He seemed to recognise this same tendency in the
subversive inquiry that I quoted a moment ago, and set himself
to answer our heroine's question with greater urbanity than it
perhaps deserved. " What does it lead to. Miss Archer % Why
Paris leads everywhere. You can't go anywhere unless you
come here first. Every one that comes to Europe has got to
12 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
pass through. You don't mean it in that sense so much 1 You
mean what good it does you? Well, how can you penetrate
futurity 1 How can you' tell what lies ahead 1 If it's a pleasant
road I don't care where it leads. I like the road, Miss Archer ;
I like the dear old asphalte. You can't get tired of it — you
can't if you try. You think you would, but you wouldn't;
there's always something new and fresh. Take the H6tel
Drouot, now ; they sometimes have three and four sales a week.
Where can you get such things as you can here ] In spite of
all they say, I maintain they are cheaper too, if you know the
right places. I know plenty of places, but I keep them to
myself. I'll tell you, if you like, as a particular favour ; only
you must not tell any one else. Don't you go anywhere with-
out asking me first; I want you to promise me that. As a
general thing avoid the Boulevards ; there is very little to be
done on the Boulevards. Speaking conscientiously — sans blague
— I don't believe- any one knows Paris better than I. You and
Mrs. Touchett must come and breakfast with me some day, and
I'll show you my things ; je ne vous dis que ga 1 There has
been a great deal of talk about London of late ; it's the fashion
to cry up London. But there is nothing in it — ^you can't do
anything in London. No Louis Quinze — ^nothing of the First
Empire ; nothing but their eternal Queen Anne. It's good for
one's bed-room, Queen Anne — for one's washing-room ; but it
isn't proper for a salaa. Do I spend my life at the auctioneer's 1 "
Mr. Eosier pursued, in answer to another question of Isabel's.
" Oh, no ; I haven't the means. I wish I had. You think I'm
a mere trifler; I can tell by the expression of your face — you
have »got a wonderfully expressive face. I hope you don't mind
my saying that ; I mean it as a kind of warning. You think I
ought to do something, and so do I, so long as you leave it
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 13
vague. But when you come to the point, you see you have to
stop. I can't go home and be a shopkeeper. You think I am
very well fitted? Ah, Miss Archer, you overrate me. I can
buy very well, but I can't sell ; you should see when I some-
times try to get rid of my things. It takes much more ability
to make other people buy than to buy yourself. When I think
how clever they must be, the people who make me buy I Ah,
no; I couldn't be a shopkeeper. I can't be a doctor, it's a
repulsive business. I can't be a clergyman, I haven't got con-
victions. And then I can't pronounce the names right in the
Bible. They are very difficult, in the Old Testament particularly.
I can't be a lawyer ; I don't understand — how do you call it 1 —
— the American procedure. Is there anything else? There
is nothing for a gentleman to do in America. I should like
to be a diplomatist; but American diplomacy — that is not
for gentlemen either. I am sure if you had seen the last
Henrietta Stackpole, who was often with her friend when Mr.
Hosier, coming to pay his compliments, late in the afternoon,
expressed himself after the fashion I have sketched, usually
interrupted the young man at this point and read him a lecture
on the duties of the American citizen. She thought him most
unnatural ; he was worse than Mr. Ealph Touchett. Henrietta,
however, was at this time more than ever addicted to fine
criticism, for her conscience had been freshly alarmed as regards
Isabel. She had not congratulated this young lady on her
accession of fortune, and begged to be excused from doing so.
" If Mr. Touchett had consulted me about leaving you the
money," she frankly said, "I would have said to him, * Never ! ' "
" I see," Isabel had answered. " You think it will prove a
curse in disguise. Perhaps it will."
14 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Leave it to some one you care less for — ^that's what I should
"To yourself, for instance T' Isabel suggested, jocosely. And
then — " Do you really believe it will /uin me 1 " she asked, in
quite another tone.
" I hope it won't ruin you ; but it will certainly confirm your
" Do you mean the love of luxury — of extravagance ] "
" "No, no," said Henrietta ; " I mean your moral tendencies.
I approve of luxury; I think we ought to be as elegant as
possible. Look at the luxury of our western cities ; I have
seen nothing over here to compare with it. I hope you will
never become sensual ; but I am not afraid of that. The peril
for you is that you live too much in the world of your own
dreams — ^you are not enough in contact with reality — with the
toiling, striving, suffering, I may even say sinning, worid that
surrounds you. You are too fastidious; you have too many
graceful illusions. Your newly-acquired thousands will shut
you up more and more to the society of a few selfish and heart-
less people, who will be interested in keeping up those illusions."
Isabel's eyes expanded as she gazed upon this vivid but dusky
picture of her future. "What are my illusions 1 " she asked.
" I try so hard not to have any."
"Well," said Henrietta, "you think that you can lead a
romantic life, that you can live by pleasing yourself and pleasing
others. You will find you are mistaken. Whatever life you
lead, you must put your soul into it — to make any sort of success
of it ; and from the moment you do that it ceases to be romance,
I assure you ; it becomes reality I And you can't always please
yourself; you must sometimes please other people. That, I
admit, you are very ready to do; but there is another thing
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 15
that is still more important — you must often disigleasQ others.
You must always be ready for that — you must never shrink
from it. That doesn't suit you at all — you are too fond of
admiration, you like to be thought well of. You think we can
escape disagreeable duties by taking romantic views — that is
your great illusion, my dear. But we can't You must be
prepared on many occasions in Hfe to please no one at all — not
Isabel shook her head sadly; she looked troubled and
fiightened. "This, for^you, Henrietta," she said, "must be
one of those occasions I "
It was certainly true that Miss Stackpole, during her visit to
Paris, which had been professionally more remunerative than
her English sojourn, had not been living in the world of
dreams. Mr. Bantling, who had now returned to England, was
her companion for the first four weeks of her stay ; and about
Mr. Bantling there was nothing dreamy. Isabel learned from
her friend that the two had led a life of great intimacy, and
that this had been a peculiar advantage to Henrietta, owing
to the gentleman's. remarkable knowledge of Pans. He had
explained everything, shown her everything, been her constant
guide and interpreter. They had breakfasted together, dined
together, gone to the theatre together, supped together, really in
a manner quite lived together. He was a true friend, Henrietta
more than once assured our heroine ; and she had never
supposed that she could like any Englishman so welL Isabel
could not have told you why, but she found something that
ministered to mirth in the alliance the correspondent of the
Interviewer had struck with Lady Pensil's brother; and her
amusement subsisted in the face of the fact that she thought
it a credit to each of them. Isabel could not rid herself of a
16 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
soBpicion that they were playing, somehow, at cioss-piirposes —
that the simplicity of each of them had been entrapped. Bat
this simplicity was none the less honooiable on either side ; it
was as graceful on Henrietta's part to believe that Mr. Bantling
took an interest in the diffusion of lively journalism, and in
consolidating the position of lady-correspondents, as it was on
the part of her companion to suppose that the cause of the
Interviewer — a periodical of which he never formed a very
definite conception — was, if subtly analysed (a task to which
Mr. Bantling felt himself quite equal), but the cause of Miss
Stackpole's coquetry. Each of these hariplftftft confederates
supplied at any rate a want of which the other was somewhat
eagerly conscious. Mr. Bantling, who was of a rather slow and
discursive habit, relished a prompt, keen, positive woman, who
charmed him with the spectacle of a brilliant eye and a kind of
bandbox neatness, and who kindled a perception of raciness in a
mind to which the usual fare of life seemed unsalted. Henrietta,
on the other hand, enjoyed the society of a fresh-looking,
professionless gentleman, whose leisured state, though generally
indefensible, was a decided advantage to Miss Stackpole, and
who was furnished with an easy, traditional, though by no
means exhaustive, answer to almost any social or practical
question that could come up. She often found Mr. Bantling's
answers very convenient, and in the press of catching the
American post would make use of them in her correspondence.
It was to be feared that she was indeed drifting toward those
mysterious shallows as to which Isabel, wishing for a good-
humoured retort, had warned her. There might be danger in
store for Isabel; but it was scarcely to be hoped that Miss
Stackpole, on her side, would find permanent safety in the
adoption of second-hand views. Isabel continued to warn her,
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 17
good-humouredly ; Lady PensiFs obliging brother was some-
times, on our heroine's lips, an object of irreverent and facetious
allusion. I^othing, however, could exceed Henrietta's amiability
on this point ; she used to abound in the sense of Isabel's irony,
and to enumerate with elation the hours she had spent with
the good Mr. Bantling. Then, a few moments later, she would
forget that they had been talking jocosely, and would mention
with impulsive earnestness some expedition she had made in the
company of the gallant ex-guardsman. She would say — ** Oh,
I know all about Versailles ; I went there with Mr. Bantling.
I was bound to see it thoroughly — I warned him when we went
out there that I was thorough ; so we spent three days at the
hotel and wandered all over the place. It was lovely weather
— ^a kind of Indian summer, only not so good. We just lived
in that park. , Oh yes ; you can't tell me anything about
Versailles." Henrietta appeared to have made arrangements
to meet Mr. Bantling in the spring, in Italy.
.; VOL. II.
18 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Mrs. Touchett, before arriving in Paris, had fixed a day
for her departure; and by the middle of February she had begun
to travel southward. She did not go directly to Florence, but
interrupted her journey to pay a visit to her son, who at San
Kemo, on the Italian shore of the Mediterranean, had been
spending a dull, bright winter, under a white umbrella. Isabel
went with her aunt, as a matter of course, though Mrs. Touchett,
with her usual homely logic, had laid before her a pair of alter^
" Now, of course you are completely your own mistress,*' she
said. " Excuse me ; I don't mean that you were not so before.
But you are on a different footing — property erects a kind of
barrier. You can do a great many things if you are rich, which
would be severely criticised if you were poor. You can go and
come, you can travel alone, you can have your own establishment :
I mean of course if you will take a companion — some decayed
gentlewoman with a darned cashmere and dyed hair, who paints
on velvet. You don't think you would like that 1 Of course
you can do as you please ; I only want you to understand that
you are at liberty. You might take Miss Stackpole as your dame
de compagnie ; she would keep people off very well. I think,
however, that it is a great deal better you should remain with
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. ' 19
me, in spite of there being no obligation. It's better for several
reasons, quite apart from your liking it. I shouldn't think you
would like it, but I recommend you to make the sacrifice. Of
course, whatever novelty there may have been at first in my
society has quite passed away, and you see me as I am — a dull,
obstinate, narrow-minded old woman.'*
" I don't think you are at all dull," Isabel had replied to this.
" But you do think I am obstinate and narrow-minded ? I
told you so I " said Mrs. Touchett, with much elation at being
Isabel remained for the present with her aunt, because, in
ppite of eccentric impulses, she had a great regard for what was
usually deemed decent, and a young gentlewoman without visi-
ble relations had always struck her as a flower without foliage.
It was true that Mrs. Touchett's conversation had never again
appeared so brilliant as that first afternoon in Albany, when she
sat in her damp waterproof and sketched the opportunities that
Europe would offer to a young person of taste. This, however,
was in a great measure the girl's own fault; she had got a
glimpse of her aunt's experience, and her imagination constantly
anticipated the judgments and emotions of a woman who had
very little of the same faculty. Apart from this, Mrs. Touchett
had a great merit ; she was as honest as a pair of compasses.
There was a comfort in her stiffness and firmness ; you knew
exactly where to find her, and were never liable to chance
encounters with her. On her own ground she was always to be
found ; but she was never over-inquisitive as regards the terri-
tory of her neighbour. Isabel came at last to have a kind of
nndemonstrable pity for her ; there seemed something so dreary
in the condition of a person whose nature had, as it were, so
little surface — offered so limited a face to the accretions of
20 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
human contact, Nothing tender, nothing sympathetic, had ever
had a chance to fasten upon it — ^no wind-sown blossom, no
familiar moss. Her passive extent, in other words, was about
that of a knife-edge. Isabel had reason to believe, however,
that as she advanced in life she grew more disposed to confer
those sentimental favours which she was still unable to accept —
to sacrifice consistency to considerations of that inferior order
for which the excuse must be found in the particular case. It
was not to the credit of her absolute rectitude that she should
have gone the longest way round to Florence, in order to spend
a few weeks with her invalid son ; for in former years it had
been one of her most definite convictions that when Ealph
wished to see her he was at liberty to remember that the Palazzo
Crescentini contained a spacious apartment which was known as
the room of the signorino.
" I want to ask you something," Isabel said to this young
man, the day after her arrival at San Remo — " something that I
have thought more than once of asking you by letter, but that I
have hesitated on the whole to write about. Face to face, never-
theless, my question seems easy enough. Did you know that
your father intended to leave me so much money ? "
Ralph stretched his legs a little further than usual, and gazed
a little more fixedly at the Mediterranean. "What does it
matter, my dear Isabel, whether I knew ] My father was very
" So," said the girl, '*you did know."
" Yes ; he told me. We even talked it over a little."
" What did he do it for ? " asked Isabel, abruptly.
" Why, as a kind of souvenir. "
" He liked me too much," said Isabel.
" That's a way we all have."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 21
" If I believed that, I should be very unhappy. Fortunately
I don't believe it. I want to be treated with justice ; I want
nothing but that."
** Very good. But you must remember that justice to a lovely
being is after all a florid sort of sentiment."
" I am not a lovely being. How can you say that, at the very
moment when I am asking such odious questions 1 I must seem
to you delicate."
" You seem to me troubled," said Ealph.
'' I am troubled."
" About what ? "
For a moment she answered nothing ; then she broke out —
" Do you think it good for me suddenly to be made so rich 1
" Oh, hang Henrietta ! " said Ealph, coarsely. ** If you ask
me, I am delighted at it."
" Is fliat why your father did it — for your amusement?"
**I differ with Miss Stackpole," Ralph said, more gravely.
" I think it's very good for you to have means."
Isabel looked at him a moment with serious eyes. " I wonder
whether you know what is good for me — or whether you care."
" If I know, depend upon it I care. Shall I tell you what it
is ] Not to torment yourself."
" !N"ot to torment you, I suppose you mean."
" You can't do that ; I am proof. Take things more easily.
Don't ask yourself so much whether this or that is good for you.
Don't question your conscience so much — ^it will get out of tune,
like a strummed piano. Keep it for great occasions. Don't try
80 much to form your character — ^it's like trying to pull open a
rosebud. live as you like best, and your character will form
itself. Most things are good for you 3 the exceptions are very
22 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
rare, and a comfortable income is not one of them." Ralph
paused, smiling ; Isabel had listened quickly. " You have too
much conscience," Ralph added. " It's out of all reason, the
number of things you think wrong. Spread your wings ; rise
above the ground. It*s never wrong to do that."
She had listened eagerly, as I say ; and it was her nature to
" I wonder if you appreciate what you say. K you do, you
take a great responsibility."
" You frighten me a little, but I think I am right," said
Ralph, continuing to smile.
" All the same, what you say is very true," Isabel went on.
*' You could say nothing more true. I am absorbed in myself —
I look at life too much as a doctor's prescription. Why, indeed,
should we perpetually be thinking whether things are good for
us, as if we were patients lying in a hospital 1 Why should I
be so afraid of not doing right ] As if it mattered to the world
whether I^do right or wrong ! "
" You are a capital person to advise," said Ralph ; " you take
the wind out of my sails ! "
She looked at him as if she had not heard him — though she
was following out the train of reflection which he himself had
kindled. " I try to care more about the world than about my-
self — but I always come back to myself. It's because I am
afraid." She stopped ; her voice had trembled a little. "Yes,
I am afraid ; I can't tell you. A large fortune means freedom,
and I am afraid of that. It's such a fine thing, £md one should
make such a good use of it. If one shouldn't, one would be
ashamed. And one must always be thinking — it's a constant
effort. I am not sure that it's not a greater happiness to be
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 23
" For weak people I have no doubt it's a greater happiness.
For weak people the effort not to be contemptible must be
** And how do you know I am not weak 1 " Isabel asked.
" Ah," Ealph answered, with a blush which the girl noticed,
** if you are, I am awfully sold ! "
The charm of the Mediterranean coast only deepened for our
heroine on acquaintance ; for it was the threshold of Italy — the
gate of admirations. Italy, as yet imperfectly seen and felt,
stretched before her as a land of promise, a land in which a love
of the beautiful might be comforted by endless knowledge.
Whenever she strolled upon the shore with her cousin — and she
was the companion of his daily walk — she looked a while across
the sea, with longing eyes, to where she knew that Genoa lay.
She was glad to pause, however, on the edge of this larger
knowledge ; the stillness of these soft weeks seemed good to her.
They were a peaceful interlude in a career which she had little
warrant as yet for regarding as agitated, but which nevertheless
she was constantly picturing to herself by the light of her hopes,
her fears, her fancies, her ambitions, her predilections, and which
reflected these subjective accidents in a manner sufficiently dra^
matic. Madame Merle had predicted to Mrs. Touchett that after
Isabel had put her hand into her pocket half-a-dozen times she
would be reconciled to the idea that it had been filled by a
munificent uncle ; and the event justified, as it had so often
justified before, Madame Merle's perspicacity. Ealph Touchett
had praised his cousin for being morally inflammable ; that is,
for being quick to take a hint that was meant as good advice.
His advice had perhaps helped the matter ; at any rate before
she left San Eemo she had grown used to feeling rich. The
consciousness found a place in rather a dense little group of ideas
24 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
that she had about her herself, and often it was by no means the
least agreeable. It was a perpetual implication of good inten-
tions. She lost herself in a maze of visions ; the fine things a
rich, independent, generous girl, who took a large, human view
of her opportunities and obligations, might do, were really innu-
merable. Her fortune therefore became to her mind a part of
her better self ; it gave her importance, gave her even, to her
own imagination, a certain ideal beauty. What it did for her in
the imagination of others is another afifair, and on this point we
must also touch in time. The visions I have just spoken of
were intermingled with other reveries. Isabel liked better to
think of the future than of the past ; but at times, as she listened
to the murmur of the Mediterranean waves, her glance took a
backward flight. It rested upon two figures which, in spite of
increasing distance, were still sufficiently salient; they were
recognisable without difficulty as those of Caspar Goodwood and
Lord Warburton. It was strange how quickly these gentlemen
had fallen into the backgi-ound of our young lady^s life. It was
in her disposition at all times to lose faith in the reality of
absent things ; she could summon back her faith, in case of need,
with an effort, but the effort was often painful, even when the
reality had been pleasant. The past was apt to look dead, and
its revival to wear the supernatural aspect of a resurrection.
Isabel moreover was not prone to take for granted that she her-
self lived in the mind of others — she had not the fatuity to
believe that she left indelible traces. She was capable of being
wounded by the discovery that she had been forgotten ; and
yet, of all liberties, the one she herself found sweetest was the
liberty to forget. She had not given her last shilling, sentiment-
ally speaking, either to Caspar Goodwood or to Lord Warbur-
ton, and yet she did not regard them as appreciably in her debt.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 25
She had, of course, reminded herself that she was to hear from
Mr. Goodwood again ; but this was not to be for another year
and a half, and in that time a great many things might happen.
Isabel did not say to herself that her American suitor might find
some other girl more comfortable to woo ; because, though it was
certain that many other girls would prove so, she had not the
smallest belief that this merit would attract him. But she
reflected that she herself might change her humour — might
weary of those things that were not Caspar (and there were so
many things that were not Caspar !), and might find satisfaction
in the very qualities which struck her to-day as his limitations.
It was conceivable that his limitations should some day prove a
sort of blessing in disguise — a clear and quiet harbour, inclosed
by a fine granite breakwater. But that day could only come in
its order, and she could not wait for it with folded hands. That
Lord Warburton should continue to cherish her image seemed to
her more than modesty should not only expect, but even desire.
She had so definitely undertaken to forget him, as a lover, that
a corresponding effort on his own part would be eminently pro-
per. This was not, as it may seem, merely a theory tinged with
sarcasm. Isabel really believed that his lordship would, in
the usual phrase, get over it. He had been deeply smitten —
this she believed, and she was still capable of deriving pleasure
from the belief; but it was absurd that a man so completely
absolved from fidelity should stiffen himself in an attitude
it would be more graceful to discontinue. Englishmen liked
to be comfortable, said Isabel, and there could be little com-
fort for Lord Warburton, in the long run, in thinking of a
self-sufficient American girl who had been but a casual acquaint-
ance. Isabel flattered herself that should she hear, from one
day to another, that he had married some young lady of
26 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
his own country who had done more to deserve him, she
should receive the news without an impulse of jealousy. It
would have proved that he believed she was firm — which
was what she wished to seem to him; and this was grateful
to her pride.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 27
On one of the first days of May, some six months after old
Mr. Touchett's death, a picturesque little group was gathered in
one of the many rooms of an ancient villa which stood on the
summit of an olive-muffled hill, outside of the Eoman gate of
Florence. The villa was a long, rather blank-looking structure,
with the fer-projecting roof which Tuscany loves, and which, on
the hills that encircle Florence, when looked at from a distance,
makes so harmonious a rectangle with the straight, dark, definite
cypresses that usually rise, in groups of three or four, beside it.
The house had a front upon a little grassy, empty, rural piazza
which occupied a part of the hill-top ; and this front, pierced
with a few windows in irregular relations and furnished with a
stone bench which ran along the base of the structure and usually
afforded a lounging-place to one or two persons wearing more or
less of that air of under-valued merit which in Italy, for some
reason or other, always gracefully invests any one who confi-
dently assumes a perfectly passive attitude — this ancient, solid,
weather-worn, yet imposing front, had a somewhat incommuni-
cative character. It was the mask of the house ; it was not
its face. It had heavy lids, but no eyes ; the house in reality
looked another way — looked off behind, into splendid openness
and the range of the afternoon light. In that quarter the villa
28 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
overhung the slope of its hill and the long valley of the Arno,
hazy with Italian colour. It had a narrow garden, in the man-
ner of a terrace, productive chiefly of tangles of wild roses and
old stone benches, mossy and sun-warmed. The parapet of the
terrace was just the height to lean upon, and beneath it the
ground declined into the vagueness of olive-crops and vineyards.
It is not, however, with the outside of the place that we are
concerned ; on this bright morning of ripened spring its tenants
had reason to prefer the shady side of the wall. The windows
of the ground-floor, as you saw them from the piazza, were, in
their noble proportions, extremely architectural ; but their func-
tion seemed to be less to offer communication with the world
than to defy the world to look in. They were massively cross-
barred and placed at such a height that curiosity, even on tip-
toe, expired before it reached them. In an apartment lighted by
a row of three of these obstructive apertures — one of the several
distinct apartments into which the villa was divided, and which
were mainly occupied by foreigners of conflicting nationality
long resident in Florence — a gentleman was seated, in company
with a young girl and two good sisters from a religious house.
The room was, however, much less gloomy than my indications
may have represented, for it had a wide, high door, which now
stood open into the tangled garden behind ; and the tall iron
lattices admitted on occasion more than enough of the Italian
sunshine. The place, moreover, was almost luxuriously comfort-
able ; it told of habitation being practised as a fine art. It con-
tained a variety of those faded hangings of damask and tapestry,
those chests and cabinets of carved and time-polished oak, those
primitive specimens of pictorial art in frames pedantically rusty,
those perverse-looking relics of mediaeval brass and pottery, of
which Italy has long been the not quite exhausted storehouse.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 29
These things were intermingled with articles of modern furni-
ture, in which liberal concession had been made to cultivated
sensibilities ; it was to be noticed that all the chairs were deep
and well padded, and that much space was occupied by a writ-
ing-table of which the ingenious perfection bore the stamp of
London and the nineteenth century. There were books in pro-
fusion, and magazines and newspapers, and a few small modern
pictures, chiefly in water-colour. One of these productions stood
on a drawing-room easel, before which, at the moment when we
begin to be concerned with her, the young girl I have mentioned
had placed herself. She was looking at the picture in silence.
Silence — absolute silence — had not fallen upon her com-
panions ; but their conversation had an appearance of embar-
rassed continuity. The two good sisters had not settled them-
selves in their respective chairs ; their attitude was noticeably
provisional, and they evidently wished to emphasise the transi-
tory character of their presence. They were plain, comfortable,
mild-faced women, with a kind of business-like modesty, to
which the impersonal aspect of their stiffened linen and inexpress-
ive serge gave an advantage. One of them, a person of a cer-
tain age, in spectacles, with a fresh complexion and a full cheek,
had a more discriminating manner than her colleague, and had
evidently the responsibility of their errand, which apparently
related to the young girl. This young lady wore her hat — a
coiffure of extreme simplicity, which was not at variance with a
plain muslin gown, too short for the wearer, though it must
already have been " let out." The gentleman who might have
been supposed to be entertaining the two nuns was perhaps
conscious of the difficulties of his function ; to entertain a
nun is, in fact, a sufficiently delicate operation. At the same
time he was plainly much interested in his youthful companion,
30 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
and while she turned her back to him his eyes rested gravely
upon her slim, small figure. He was a man of forty, with a
well-shaped head, upon which the hair, still dense, but prema-
tiirely grizzled, had been cropped close. He had a thin, delicate,
sharply-cut face, of which the only fault was that it looked too
pointed ; an appearance to which the shape of his beard contri-
buted not a little. This beard, cut in the manner of the por-
traits of the sixteenth century and surmounted by a fair mous-
tache, of which the ends had a picturesque upward flourish, gave
its wearer a somewhat foreign, traditionary look, and suggested
that he was a gentleman who studied effect. His luminous
intelligent eye, an eye which expressed both softness and keen-
ness — the nature of the observer as well as of the dreamer —
would have assured you, however, that he studied it only within
well-chosen limits, and that in so far as he sought it he found it.
You would have been much at a loss to determine his national-
ity ; he had none of the superficial signs that usually render the
answer to this question an insipidly easy one. If he had Eng-
lish blood in his veins, it had probably received some French or
Italian commixture ; he was one of those persons who, in the
matter of race, may, as the phrase is, pass for anything. He
had a light, lean, lazy-looking figure, and was apparently neither
tall nor short. He was dressed as a man dresses who takes little
trouble about it.
" Well, my dear, what do you think of it?" he asked of the
young girl. He used the Italian tongue, and used it with
perfect ease ; but this would not have convinced you that he was
The girl turned her head a little to one side and the other.
" It is very pretty, papa. Did you make it yourself ] "
" Yes, my child ; I made it. Don't you think I am clever } "
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 31
"Yes, papa, very clever; I also have learned to make pic-
tures." And she turned round and showed a small, fair face, of
which the natural and usual expression seemed to be a smile of
" You should have brought me a specimen of your powers."
" I have brought a great many ; they are in my trunk," said
"She draws very — very carefully," the elder of the nuns
remarked, speaking in FrencL
"I am glad to hear it. Is it you who have instructed
her ? "
" Happily, no," said the good sister, blushing a little. " Ce
rCed pas ma partie. I teach nothing ; I leave that to those who
are wiser. We have an excellent drawing-master, Mr. — ^Mr. —
what is his name 1 " she asked of her companion.
Her companion looked about at the carpet.
" It's a German name," she said in Italian, as if it needed to
" Yes," the other went on, " he is a German, and we have had
him for many years."
The young girl, who was not heeding the conversation, had
wandered away to the open door of the large room, and stood
looking into the garden.
" And you, my sister, are French," said the gentleman.
" Yes, sir," the woman replied, gently. " I speak to the pupils
in my own language. I know no other. But we have sisters of
other countries — English, German, Irish. They all speak their
The gentleman gave a smile.
" Has my daughter been under the care of one of the Irish
ladies 1 " And then, as he saw that his visitors suspected a joke
32 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
but failed to understand it — " You are very complete," he said,
" Oh, yes, we are complete. We have everything, and every-
thing is of the best."
" We have gymnastics," the Italian sister ventured to remark.
" But not dangerous."
"I hope not. Is that your branch]" A question which
provoked much candid hilarity on the part of the two ladies ; on
the subsidence of which their entertainer, glancing at his daughter,
remarked that she had grown.
" Yes, but I think she has finished. She will remain little,"
said the French sister.
" I am not sorry. I like little women," the gentleman declared,
frankly. "But I know no particular reason why my child
should be short."
The nun gave a temperate shrug, as if to intimate that such
things might be beyond our knowledge.
" She is in very good health ; that is the best thing."
" Yes, she looks well. '* And the young girl's father watched her
a moment. " What do you see in the garden? " he asked, in French.
" I see many flowers," she replied, in a sweet, small voice,
and with a French accent as good as his own.
" Yes, but not many good ones. However, such as they are,
go out and gather some for ces dames,**
The child turned to him, with her smile brightened by pleasure.
" May I, truly 1 " she asked.
" Ah, when I tell you," said her father.
The girl glanced at the elder of the nuns.
" May I, truly, ma wh-e ? "
"Obey monsieur your father, my child," said the sister,
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 88
The child, satisfied with this authorisation, descended from the
threshold, and was presently lost to sight.
** You don't spoil them," said her father, smiling.
" For everything they must ask leave. That is our system.
Leave is freely granted, but they must ask it."
" Oh, I don't quarrel with your system ; I have no doubt it is
a very good one. I sent you my daughter to see what you would
make of her. I had faith."
« One mu8t Lave faitV the sister blaudly rejoined, gazing
through her spectacles.
" Well, has my faith been rewarded 1 What have you made
of her ] "
The sister dropped her eyes a moment.
" A good Christian, monsieur."
Her host dropped his eyes as well ; but it was probable that
the movement had in each case a different spring.
" Yes," he said in a moment, " and what else 1 "
He watched the lady from the convent, probably thinking
that she would say that a good Christian was everything.
But for all her simplicity, she was not so crude as that. " A
charming young lady — a real little woman — a daughter in whom
you will have nothing but contentment."
" She seems to me very nice," said the father. " She is very
" She is perfect. She has no faults."
" She never had any as a child, and I am glad you have given
" We love her too much," said the spectacled sister, with dig-
nity. " And as for faults, how can we give what we have not 1
Le convent rHest pas comme le monde, monsieur. She is our child
as you may say. We have had her since she was so smalL"
VOL. II. D
84 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Of all those we shall lose this year she is the one we shall
miss most," the younger woman murmured, deferentially.
"Ah, yes, we shall talk long of her," said the other. *' We
shall hold her up to the new ones."
And at this the good sister appeared to find her spectacles
dim ; while her companion, after fumbling a moment, presently
drew forth a pocket-handkerchief of durable texture.
" It is not certain that you will lose her ; nothing is settled
yet," the host rejoined, quickly; not as if to anticipate their
tears, but in the tone of a man saying what was most agreeable
" We should be very happy to believe that. Fifteen is very
young to leave us."
" Oh," exclaimed the gentleman, with more vivacity than he
had yet used, " it is not I who wish to take her away. I wish
you could keep her always ! "
''Ah, monsieur," said the elder sister, smiling and getting
up, '' good as she is, she is made for the world. Le monde y
" If all the good people were hidden away in convents, how
would the world get on % " her companion softly inquired, rising
This was a question of a wider bearing than the good woman
apparently supposed ; and the lady in spectacles took a harmon*
ising view by saying comfortably —
** Fortunately there are good people everywhere."
"If you are going there will be two less here," her host
For this extravagant sally his simple visitors had no answer,
and they simply looked at each other in decent deprecation ; but
their confusion was speedily covered by the return of the young
THE PORTRAIT OF A JADY. 35
girl, with two large bunches of loses— one of them all white, the
^' I give you your choice, mamman Catherine,*' said the child.
*^ It is only the colour that is different, mamman Justine ; there
are just as many roses in one bunch as another."
The two sisters turned to each other, smiling and hesitating, with
— " Which will you take ? " and " No, it's for you to choose."
'^ I will take the red," said mother Catherine, in the spec-
tacles. "I am so red myself. They will comfort us on our
way back to Eome."
"Ah, they won't last," cried the young girL "I wish I
could give you something that would last ! "
" You have given us a good memory of yourself, my daughter.
That will last ! "
" I wish nuns could wear pretty things. I would give you
my blue beads," the child went on.
" And do you go back to Rome to-night 1 " her father asked.
"Yes, we take the train again. We have so much to do
" Axe you not tired 1 "
" We are never tired."
" Ah, my sister, sometimes," murmured the junior votaress.
" Not to-day, jit any rate. We have rested too well here.
Que Dieu vous garde^ maJUleJ*
Their host, while they exchanged kisses with his daughter,i
went forward to open the door through which they were to
pass ; but as he did so he gave a slight exclamation, and stood
looking beyond. The door opened into a vaulted ante-chamber,
as high as a chapel, and paved with red tiles ; and into this
ante-chamber a lady had just been admitted by a servant, a
lad in shabby livery, who was now ushering her toward the
36 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
apartment in which our friends were grouped. The gentleman
at the door, after dropping his exclamation, remained silent; in
silence, too, the lady advanced. He gave her no further audible
greeting, and offered her no hand, but stood aside to let her pass
into the drawing-room. At the threshold she hesitated.
" Is there any one 1 *' she asked.
" Some one you may see."
She went in, and found herself confronted with the two nuns
and their pupil, who was coming forward between them, with a
hand in the arm of each. At the sight of the new visitor they
all paused, and the lady, who had stopped too, stood looking at
them. The young girl gave a little soft cry —
" Ah, Madame Merle ! '*
The visitor had been slightly startled ; but her manner the
next instant was none the less gracious.
" Yes, it's Madame Merle, come to welcome you home."
And she held out two hands to the girl, who immediately
came up to her, presenting her forehead to be kissed. Madame
Merle saluted this portion of her charming little person, and
then stood smiling at the two nuns. They acknowledged her
smile with a decent obeisance, but permitted themselves no direct
scrutiny of this imposing, briUiant woman, who seeined to bring
in with her something of the radiance of the outer world.
" These ladies have brought my daughter home, and now they
return to the convent," the gentleman explained.
" Ah, you go back to Eome ? I have lately come from there.
It is very lovely now," said Madame Merle.
The good sisters, standing with their hands folded into their
sleeves, accepted this statement uncritically ; and the master of
the house asked Madame Merle how long it was since she had
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 87
" She came to see me at the convent," said the young girl,
before her father's visitors had time to reply.
"I have been more than once, Pansy," Madame Merle
answered. " Am I not your great friend in Eome 1 "
**I remember the last time best,'* said Pansy, "because you
told me I should leave the place."
"Did you tell her that?" the child's father asked.
" I hardly remember. I told her what I thought would
please her. I have been in Florence a week. I hoped you
would come and see me."
" I should have done so if I had known you were here. One
doesn't know such things by inspiration — though I suppose one
ought You had better sit down."
These two speeches were made in a peculiar tone of voice — a
tone half-lowered, and carefully quiet, but as from habit rather
than from any definite need.
Madame Merle looked about her, choosing her seat.
" You are going to the door with these women ? Let me of
course not interrupt the ceremony. Je vous salue, mesdameSf*
she added, in French, to the nuns, as if to dismiss them.
" This lady is a great friend of ours ; you will have seen her
at the convent," said the host. " We have much faith in her
judgment, and she will help me to decide whether my daughter
shall return to you at the end of the holidays."
" I hope you will decide in our favour, madam," the sister in
spectacles ventured to remark.
"That is Mr. Osmond's pleasantry; I decide nothing," said
Madame Merle, smiling still " I believe you have a very good
school, but Miss Osmond's friends must remember that she is
meant for the world."
" That is what I have told monsieur," sister Catherine
38 THE PORTRAIT OP A LADY.
answered. "It is precisely to fit her for the world," she
murmured, glancing at Pansy, who stood at a little distance,
looking at Madame Merle's elegant apparel.
" Do you hear that, Pansy ? You are meant for the world,"
said Pansy's father.
The child gazed at him an instant with her pure young eyes.
" Am I not meant for you, papa 1 " she asked.
Papa gave a quick, Hght laugh.
" That doesn't prevent it ! I am of the world. Pansy."
"Kindly permit us to retire," said sister Catherine. **Be
good, in any case, my daughter."
" I shall certainly come back and see you," Pansy declared,
recommencing her embraces, which were presently interrupted
by Madame Merle.
" Stay with me, my child," she said, " while your father
takes the good ladies to the door."
Pansy stared, disappointed, but not protesting. She was
evidently impregnated with the idea of submission, which was
due to any one who took the tone of authority ; and she was a
passive spectator of the operation of her fate.
" May I not see mamman Catherine get into the carriage 1 "
she asked very gently.
" It would please me better if you would remain with me,"
said Madame Merle, while Mr. Osmond and his companions,
who had bowed low again to the other visitor, passed into the
" Oh yes, I will stay," Pansy answered 5 and she stood near
Madame Merle, surrendering her little hand, which this lady took.
She stared out of the window ; her eyes had filled with tears.
" I am glad they have taught you to obey," said Madame
Merle. " That is what little girls should do."
THE PORTRAIT OP A LADY. 89
"Oh yes, I obey very well/' said Pansy, with soft eagerness,
almost with boastfiiLness, as if she had been speaking of hei
piano-playing. And then she gave a faint, just audible sigh.
Madame Merle, holding her hand, drew it across her own
fine palm and looked at it. The gaze was critical, but it found
nothing to deprecate; the child's small hand was delicate and fair.
" I hope they always see that you wear gloves," she said in
a moment. '' Little girls usually dislike them."
''I used to dislike them, but I like them now," the child
" Very good, I will make you a present of a dozen."
"I thank you very much. What colours will they bel"
P^nsy demanded, with interest.
Madame Merle meditated a moment
" Useful colours."
'* But will they be pretty ? "
" Are you fond of pretty things ? "
" Yes ; but — but not too fond," said Pansy, with a trace of
" Well, they will not be too pretty," Madame Merle answered,
with a laugh. She took the child's other hand, and drew her
nearer ; and then, looking at her a moment — " Shall you miss
mother Catherine V*
" Yes — when I think of her."
" Try, then, not to think of her. Perhaps some day," added
Madame Merle, "you will have another mother."
" I don't think that is necessary," Pansy said, repeating her
little soft, conciliatory sigh. " I had more than thirty mothers
at the convent."
Her father's step sounded again in the ante-chamber, and
Madame Merle got up, releasing the child. Mr. Osmond came
40 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
in and closed the door ; then, without looking at Madame Merle,
he pushed one or two chairs hack into their places.
His visitor waited a moment for him to speak, watching him
as he moved ahout. Then at last she said — " I hoped you would
have come to Rome. I thought it possible you would have
come to fetch Pansy away."
" That was a natural supposition ; hut I am afraid it is not
the first time I have acted in defiance of your calculations.*'
" Yes," said Madame Merle, " I think you are very
Mr. Osmond busied himself for a moment in the room — there
was plenty of space in it to move ahout — in the fashion of a
man mechanically seeking pretexts for not giving an attention
which may he embarrassing. Presently, however, he had ex-
hausted his pretexts; there was nothing left for him — unless
he took up a book — ^but to stand with his hands behind him,
looking at Pansy. " Why didn't you come and see the last of
mamman Catherine ? " he asked of her abruptly, in French.
Pansy hesitated a moment, glancing at Madame Merle. " I
asked her to stay with me," said this lady, who had seated
herself again in another place.
"Ah, that was better," said Osmond. Then, at last, he
dropped into a chair, and sat looking at Madame Merle ; leaning
forward a little, with his elbows on the edge of the arms and
his hands interlocked.
" She is going to give me some gloves," said Pansy.
" You needn't tell that to every one, my dear," Madame Merle
" You are very kind to her," said Osmond. " She is sup-
posed to have everything she needs."
" I should think she had had enough of the nuns."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 41
" If we are going to discuss that matter, she had better go
out of the room."
"Let her stay," said Madame Merle. "We will talk of
"If you like, I won't listen," Pansy suggested, with an
appearance of candour which imposed conviction.
" You may listen, charming child, because you won't under-
stand," her father replied. The child sat down deferentially,
near the open door, within sight of the garden, into which she
directed her innocent, wistful eyes ; and Mr. Osmond went on,
irrelevantly, addressing himself to his other companion. " You
are looking particularly well."
" I think I always look the same," said Madame Merle.
"You always are the same. You don't vary. You are a
"Yes, I think I am."
" You sometimes change your mind, however. You told me
on your return from England that you would not leave Eome
again for the present. "
" I am pleased that you remember so weU what I say. That
was my intention. But I have come to Florence to meet some
friends who have lately arrived, and as to whose movements I
was at that time uncertain."
" That reason is characteristic. You are always doing some-
thing for your friends."
Madame Merle looked straight at her interlocutor, smiling.
" It is less characteristic than your comment upon it — which is
perfectly insincere. I don't, however, make a crime of that,"
she added, " because if you don't believe what you say there is
no reason why you should. I don't ruin myself for my friends ;
I don't deserve your praise. I care greatly for myself."
42 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
"Exactly; but yourself includes so many other selves — so
much, of everything. I never knew a person whose life touched
so many other lives."
" What do you call one's life 1 " asked Madame Merle. " One's
appearance, one's movements, one's engagements, one's society 1 "
^ I call your life — your ambitions," said Osmond.
Madame Merle looked a moment at Pansy. "I wonder
whether she understands that," she murmured.
" You see she can't stay with us ! " And Pansy's father gave
a rather joyless smile. " Go into the garden, ma bonne, and
pluck a flower or two for Madame Merle," he went on, in
" That's just what I wanted to do," Pansy exclaimed, rising
with promptness and noiselessly departing. Her father followed
her to the open door, stood a moment watching her, and then
came back, but remained standing, or rather strolling to and
fro, as if to cultivate a sense of freedom which in another atti-
tude might be wanting.
" My ambitions are principally for you," said Madame Merle,
looking up at him with a certain nobleness of expression.
" That comes back to what I say. I am part of your life — I
and a thousand others. You are not selfish — I can't admit that.
If you were selfish, what should I be ? What epithet would
properly describe me ? "
" You are indolent. For me that is your worst fault."
" I am afraid it is really my best."
" You don't care," said Madame Merle, gravely.
" No ; I don't think I care much. What sort of a fault do
you call thati My indolence, at any rate, was one of the
reasons I didn^t go to Eome. But it was only one of them."
" It is not of importance — ^to me at least — that you didn't
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 48
go ; though I should have been glad to see you. I am glad
that you are not in Borne now — ^which you might be, would
probably be, if you had gone there a month ago. There is
something I should like you to do at present in Florence."
" Please remember my indolence/' said Osmond.
" I will remember it ; but I beg you to forget it. In that
way you will haye both the virtue and the reward. This is not
a great labour, and it may prove a great pleasure. How long is
it since you made a new acquaintance ? "
** I don't think I have made any since I made yours."
''It is time you should make another, then. There is a
friend of mine I want you to know."
Mr. Osmond, in his walk, had gone back to the open door
again, and was looking at his daughter, as she moved about in
the intense sunshine. '' What good will it do me ? " he asked,
with a sort of genial crudity.
Madame Merle reflected a moment. " It will amuse you."
There was nothing crude in this rejoinder ; it had been thoroughly
" If you say that, I believe it," said Osmond, coming toward
her. '* There are some points in which my confidence in you is
complete. I am perfectly aware, for instance, that you know
good society from bad."
'^ Society is all bad."
*' Excuse me. That isn't a common sort of wisdom. You have
gained it in the right way — experimentally ; you have compared
an immense number of people with each other."
" "Well, I invite you to profit by my knowledge."
" To profit ? Are you very sure that I shall 1 "
" It's what I hope. It will depend upon yourself. If I could
only induce you to make an effort ! '*
44 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Ah, there you are I I knew something tiresome was coming.
What in the world — that is likely to turn up here — is worth an
effort 1 "
Madame Merle flushed a little, and her eye betrayed vexation.
" Don't be foolish, Osmond. There is no one knows better than
you that there are many things worth an effort."
" Many things, I admit. But they are none of them probable
" It is the effort that makes them probable," said Madame
" There's something in that. Who is your friend 1 "
"The person I came to Florence to see. She is a niece of
Mrs. Touchett, whom you will not have forgotten."
" A niece 1 The word niece suggests youth. I see what you
are coming to."
" Yes, she is young — twenty-two years old. She is a great
friend of mine. I met her for the first time in England, several
months ago, and we took a great fancy to each other. I like her
immensely, and I do what I don't do every day — I admire her.
You will do the sama"
" Not if I can help it."
** Precisely. But you won't be able to help it"
"Is 'she beautiful, clever, rich, splendid, universally intelli-
gent and unprecedentedly virtuous 1 It is only on those condi-
tions that I care to make her acquaintance. You know I asked
you some time ago never to speak to me of any one who should
not correspond to that description. I know plenty of dingy
people ; I don't want to know any more."
" Miss Archer is not dingy ; she's as bright as the morning.
She corresponds to your description 5 it ia for that I wish you to
know her. She fills all your requirements."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 45
" More or less, of course."
^ No ; quite literally. She is beautiful, accomplished, gener-
ous, and for an American, well-born. She is also very clever
and very amiable, and she has a handsome fortune."
Mr. Osmond listened to this in silence, appearing to turn it
over in his mind, with his eyes on his informant. '' What do
you want to do with her 1 " he asked, at last.
** What you see. Put her in your way."
** Isn't she meant for something better than that ? "
^' I don't pretend to know what people are meant for," said
Madame Merle. ** I only know what I can do with them."
" I am sorry for Miss Archer ! " Osmond declared.
Madame Merle got up. '^ If that is a beginning of interest in
her, I take note of it."
The two stood there^ fSeuie to face ; she settled her mantilla,
looking down at it as she did so.
'* You are looking very well," Osmond repeated, still more
irrelevantly than before. " You have got some idea. You are
never as well as when you have got an idea ; they are always
becoming to you."
In the manner of these two persons, on first meeting on any
occasion, and especially when they met in the presence of others,
there was something indirect and circumspect, which showed
itself in glance and tone. They approached each other obliquely,
as it were, and they addressed each other by implication. The
effect of each appeared to be to intensify to an embarrassing
degree the self-consciousness of the other. Madame Merle of
course carried off such embarrassments better than her friend ;
but even Madame Merle had not on this occasion the manner
she would have liked to have — the perfect self-possession she
would have wished to exhibit to her host. The point I wish
46 THE PORTRAIT OP A LADY.
to make is, however, that at a certain moment the obstruction,
whatever it was, always levelled itself, and left them more closely
face to face than either of them ever was with any one else.
This was what had happened now. They stood there, knowing
each other well, and each of them on the whole willing to accept
the satisfaction of knowing, as a compensation for the inconveni-
ence — ^whatever it might be — of being known.
" I wish very much you were not so heartless,*' said Madame
Merle, quietly. " It has always been against you, and it will be
against you now."
" I am not so heartless as you think. Every now and then
something touches me — as for instance your saying just now that
your ambitions are for me. I don't understand it ; I don't
see how or why they should be. But it touches me, all the
" You will probably understand it even less as time goes on.
There are some things you will never understand. There is no
particular need that you should."
"You, after all, are the most remarkable woman," said
Osmond. "You have more in you than almost any one. I
don't see why you think Mrs. Touchett's niece should matter
very much to me, when — when ** and he paused a moment.
" When I myself have mattered so little 1 "
" That of course is not what I meant to say. When I have
known and appreciated such a woman as you."
" Isabel Archer is better than I," said Madame Merle.
Her companion gave a laugh. " How little you must think
of her to say that ! "
" Do you suppose I am capable of jealousy ? Please answer
" With regard to me ? No ; on the whole I don't."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 47
" Gome and see me, then, two days hence. I am staying at
Mrs. Touchett's — ^the Palazzo Crescentini — and the girl will be
" Why didn't you ask me that at first, simply, without speak-
ing of the girl ? " said Osmond. ''You could have had her there
at any rate."
Madame Merle looked at him in the manner of a woman
whom no question that he could ask would find unprepared.
" Do you wish to know why ? Because I have spoken of you
Osmond frowned and turned away. *^ I would rather not
know that." Then, in a moment, he pointed out the easel sup* t
porting the little water-colour drawing. '^ Have you seen that
—my last 1 "
Madame Merle drew near and looked at it a moment. '^ Is it
the Venetian Alps — one of your last year's sketches ? "
" Yes — but how you guess everything 1 "
Madame Merle looked for a moment longer ; then she turned
away. " You know I don't care for your drawings."
" I know it, yet I am always surprised at it. They are really
so much better than most people's."
" That may very well be. But as the only thing you do, it's
so little. I should have liked you to do so many other things :
those were my ambitions."
" Yes ; you have told me many times — ^things that wera
'' Things that were impossible," said Madame Merle. And
then, in quite a different tone — " In itself your little picture is
very good." She looked about the room — at the old cabinets,
the pictures, the tapestries, the surfaces of faded silk. " Your
rooms, at least, are perfect," she went on. " I am struck with
48 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
that afresh, whenever I come back ; I know none better any-
where. You understand this sort of thing as no one else
" I am very sick of it," said Osmond.
** You must let Miss Archer come and see all this. I have
told her about it."
" I don't object to showing my things — when people are not
" You do it delightfully. As a'cicerone in your own museum
you appear to particular advantage."
Mr. Osmond, in return for this compliment, simply turned
upon his companion an eye expressive of perfect clairvoyance.
" Did you say she was rich 1 " he asked in a moment.
" She has seventy thousand pounds."
" En ecus hien comptes 9 **
" There is no doubt whatever about her fortune. I have seen
it, as I may say."
" Satisfactory woman ! — ^I mean you. And if I go to see her,
shall I see the mother ] "
" The mother 1 She has none — ^nor father either."
" The aunt then ; whom did you say 1 — Mrs. Touchett."
" I can easily keep her out of the way."
" I don't object to her," said Osmond ; " I rather like Mrs.
Touchett. She has a sort of old-fashioned character that is
passing away — a vivid identity. But that long jackanapes, the
son — is he about the place 1 "
" He is there, but he won't trouble you."
" He's an awful ass."
" I think you are mistaken. He is a very clever man. But
he is not fond of being about when I am there, because he doesn't
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 49
" What could be more asinine than that 1 Did you say that
she was pretty 1 " Osmond went on.
" Yes ; but I won't say it again, lest you should be disap-
pointed. Come and make a beginning ; that is all I ask of
" A beginning of what 1 "
Madame Merle was silent a moment " I want you of course
to marry her."
"The beginning of the end! Well, I will see for myself.
Have you told her that 1 "
" For what do you take me 1 She is a very delicate piece of
" Eeally," said Osmond, after some meditation, " I don't
understand your ambitions."
" I think you will understand this one after you have seen
Miss Archer. Suspend your judgment till then." Madame
Merle, as she spoke, had drawn near the open door of the
garden, where she stood a moment, looking out. "Pansy has
grown pretty," she presently added.
" So it seemed to me."
" But she has had enough of the convent."
" I don't know," said Osmond. " I like what they have made
of her. It's very charming."
" That's not the convent. It's the child's nature.'*
" It's the combination, I think. She's as pure as a pearl."
" Why doesn't she come back with my flowers, then 1 " Madame
Merle asked. " She is not in a hurry."
" We will go and get them," said her companion.
" She doesn't like me," murmured Madame Merle, as she raised
her parasol, and they passed into the garden.
VOL. II. E
60 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Madame Merle, who had come to Florence on Mrs. Touchett's
arrival at the invitation of this lady — Mrs. Touchett offering her
for a month the hospitality of the Palazzo Crescentini — the
judicious Madame Merle spoke to Isahel afresh ahout Gilbert
Osmond, and expressed the wish that she should know him ; but
made no such point of the matter as we have seen her do in
recommending the girl herself to Mr. Osmond's attention. The
reason of this was perhaps that Isabel offered no resistance
whatever to Madame Merle's proposal. In Italy, as in England,
the lady had a multitude of friends, both among the natives of
the country and its heterogeneous visitors. She had mentioned
to Isabel most of the people the girl would find it well to know
— of course, she said, Isabel could know whomever she would —
and she had placed Mr. Osmond near the top of the list. He
was an old friend of her own ; she had known him these ten
years ; he was one of the cleverest and most agreeable men it
was possible to meet. He was altogether above the respectable
average ; quite another affair. He was not perfect — far from
it ; the effect he produced depended a good deal on the state of
his nerves and his spirits. If he were not in the right mood he
could be very unsatisfactory — like most people, after all; but
when he chose to exert himself no man could do it to better
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 51
purpose. He liad his peculiarities — which indeed Isabel would
find to be the case with all the men really worth knowing — ^and
he did not cause his light to shine equally for all persons.
Madame Merle, however, thought she could undertake that for
Isabel he would be brilliant. He was easily bored — too easily,
and dull people always put him out ; but a quick and cultivated
girl like Isabel would give him a stimulus which was too absent
from his life. At any rate, he Was a person to know. One
should not attempt to live in Italy without making a friend of
Gilbert Osmond, who knew more about the country than any
one except two or three German professors. And if they had
more knowledge than he, he had infinitely more taste ; he had a
taste which was quite by itself. Isabel remembered that her
friend had spoken of him during their multifarious colloquies at
Gardencourt, and wondered a little what was the nature of the
tie that united them. She was inclined to imagine that Madame
Merle's ties were peculiar, and such a possibility was a part of
the interest created by this suggestive woman. As regards her
relations with Mr. Osmond, however, Madame Merle hinted at
nothing but a long-established and tranquil friendship. Isab^^l
said that she should be happy to know a person who had enjoyed
her friend's confidence for so many years. " You ought to see a
great many men," Madame Merle remarked ; " you ought to see
as many as possible, so as to get used to them."
" Used to them ] " Isabel repeated, with that exceedingly
serious gaze which sometimes seemed to proclaim that she was
deficient in a sense of humour — an intimation which at other
moments she effectively refuted. " I am not afraid of them 1 "
" Used to them, I mean, so as to despise them. That's what
one comes to with most of them. You will pick out, for your
society, the few whom you don't despise."
62 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
This remark had a bitterness which Madame Merle did not
often allow herself to betray ; but Isabel was not alarmed by it,
for she had never supposed that, as one saw more of the world,
the sentiment of respect became the most active of one's emotions.
This sentiment was excited, however, by the beautiful city of
Florence, which pleased her not less than Madame Merle had
promised ; and if her unassisted perception had not been able to
gauge its charms, she had clever companions to call attention to
latent merits. She was in no want, indeed, of aesthetic illumin-
ation, for Ralph found it a pleasure which renewed his own
earlier sensations, to act as cicerone to his eager young kinswoman.
Madame Merle remained at home ; she had seen the treasures of
Florence so often, and she had always something to do. But
she talked of all things with remarkable vividness of memory —
she remembered the right-hand angle in the large Perugino, and
the position of the hands of the Saint Elizabeth in the picture
next to it ; and had her own opinions as to the character of many
famous works of art, differing often from Ealph with great sharp-
ness, and defending her interpretations with as much ingenuity
as good-humour. Isabel listened to the discussions which took
place between the two, with a sense that she might derive much
benefit from them and that they were among the advantages
which — for instance — she could not have enjoyed in Albany.
In the clear May mornings, before the formal breakfast — this
repast at Mrs. Touchett*s was served at twelve o'clock — Isabel
wandered about with her cousin through the narrow and sombre
Florentine streets, resting a while in the thicker dusk of some
historic church, or the vaulted chambers of some dispeopled con-
vent. She went to the galleries and palaces ; she looked at the
pictures and statues which had hitherto been great names to her,
and exchanged for a knowledge which was sometimes a limitation
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 63
a presentiment which proved usually to have been a blank. She
performed all those acts of mental prostration in which, on a
first visit to Italy, youth and enthusiasm so freely indulge ; she
felt her heart beat in the presence of immortal genius, and knew
the sweetness of rising tears in eyes to which faded fresco and
darkened marble grew dim. But the return, every day, was even
pleasanter than the going forth ; the return into the wide, monu-
mental court of the great house in which Mrs. Touchett, many
years before, had established herself, and into the high, cool
rooms where carven rafters and pompous frescoes of the sixteenth
century looked down upon the familiar commodities of the
nineteenth. Mrs. Touchett inhabited an historic building in a
narrow street whose very name recalled the strife of mediaeval
factions ; and found compensation for the darkness of her front*
age in the modicity of her rent and the brightness of a garden in
which nature itself looked as archaic as the rugged architecture
of the palace and which illumined the rooms that were in regular
use. Isabel found that to live in such a place might be a source
of happiness — almost of excitement. At first it had struck her
as a sort of prison ; but very soon its 'prison-like quality became
a merit, for she discovered that it contained other prisoners than
the members of her aunt's household. The spirit of the past was
shut up there, like a refugee from the outer world ; it lurked in
lonely corners, and, at night, haunted even the rooms in which
Mrs. Touchett diffused her matter-of-fact influence. Isabel used
to hear vague echoes and strange reverberations ; she had a sense
of the hovering of unseen figures, of the flitting of ghosts. Often
she paused, listening, half-startled, half-disappointed, on the great
cold stone staircase.
Gilbert Osmond came to see Madame Merle, who presented
him to the young lady seated almost out of sight at the other
64 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
end of the room. Isabel, on this occasion, took little share in
the conversation; she scarcely even smiled when the others
turned to her appealingly ; but sat there as an impartial auditor
of their brilliant discourse. Mrs. Touchett was not present,
and these two had it their own way. They talked extremely
wellj it struck Isabel almost as a dramatic entertainment,
rehearsed in advance. Madame Merle referred everything to
her, but the girl answered nothing, though she knew that this
attitude would make Mr. Osmond think she was one of those
dull people who bored him. It was the worse, too, that
Madame Merle would have told him she was almost as much
above the merely respectable average as he himself, and that
she was putting her friend dreadfully in the wrong. But this
was no matter, for once; even if more had depended on it,
Isabel could not have made an attempt to shine. There was
something in Mr. Osmond that arrested her and held her in
suspense — made it seem more important that she should get an
impression of him than that she should produce one herself.
Besides, Isabel had little skill in producing an impression which
she knew to be expected ; nothing could be more charming, in
general, than to seem dazzling ; but she had a perverse unwill-
ingness to perform by arrangement. Mr. Osmond, to do him
justice, had a well-bred air of expecting nothing ; he was a quiet
gentleman, with a colourless manner, who said elaborate things
with a great deal of simplicity. Isabel, however, privately
perceived that if he did not expect, he observed ; she was very
sure he was sensitive. His face, his head were sensitive ; he was
not handsome, but he was fine, as fine as one of the drawings in
the long gallery above the bridge, at the Ufl&zi. Mr. Osmond
was very delicate ; the tone of his voice alone would have proved
it. It was the visitor's delicacy that made her abstain from
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. . 55
interference. His talk was like the tinkling of glass, and if
she had put out her finger she might have changed the pitch
and spoiled the concert. Before he went he made an appeal
** Madame Merle says she will come up to my hill- top some
day next week and drink tea in my garden. It would give me
much pleasure if you would come with her. It's thought rather
pretty — ^there's what they call a general view. My daughter,
too, would be so glad— or rather, for she is too young to have
strong emotions, I should be so glad — so very glad." And Mr.
Osmond paused a moment, with a slight air of embarrassment,
leaving his sentence unfinished. " I should be so happy if you
could know my daughter," he went on, a moment afterwards.
Isabel answered that she should be delighted to see Miss
Osmond, and that if Madame Merle would show her the way to
the hill-top she should be very grateful Upon this assurance
the visitor took his leave ; after which Isabel fully expected that
her friend would scold her for having been so stupid. But to
her surprise, Madame Merle, who indeed never fell into the
matter-of-course, said to her in a few moments —
" You were charming, my dear ; you were just as one would
have wished you. You are never disappointing."
A rebuke might possibly have been irritating, though it is
much more probable that Isabel would have taken it in good
part ; but, strange to say, the words that Madame Merle actually
used caused her the first feeling of displeasure she had known
this lady to excite. "That is more than I intended," she
answered, coldly. " I am under no obligation that I know of
to charm Mr. Osmond."
Madame Merle coloured a moment ; but we know it was not
her habit to retract. " My dear child, I didn't speak for him,
66 THE PORTEAIT OF A LADY.
poor man ; I spoke for yourself. It is not of course a question
as to his liking you ; it matters little whether he likes you or
not ! But I thought you liked him."
** I did/' said Isabel, honestly. " But I don't see what that
" Everything that concerns you matters to me," Madame
Merle returned, with a sort of noble gentleness, " especially when
at the same time another old friend is concerned."
Whatever Isabel's obligations may have been to Mr. Osmond,
it must be admitted that she found them sufficient to lead her to
ask Ealph sundry questions about him. She thought Ealph's
judgments cynical, but she flattered herself that she had learned
to make allowance for that.
" Do I know him 1 " said her cousin. " Oh, yes, I know
him ; not well, but on the whole enough. I have never culti-
vated his society, and he apparently has never found mine
indispensable to his happiness. Who is he — ^what is he 1 He
is a mysterious American, who has been living these twenty
years, or more, in Italy. Why do I call him mysterious ? Only
as a cover for my ignorance ; I don't know his antecedents, his
family, his origin. For all I know, he may be a prince in
disguise ; ho rather looks like one, by the way — like a prince
who has abdicated in a fit of magnanimity, and has been in a
state of disgust ever since. He used to live in Eome ; but of
late years he has taken up his abode in Florence ; I remember
hearing him say once that Eome has grown vulgar. He has a great
dread of vulgarity ; that's his special line ; he hasn't any other
that I know of. He lives on his income, which I suspect of not
being vulgarly large. He's a poor gentleman — that's what he
calls himself. He married young and lost his wife, and I
believe he has a daughter. He also has a sister, who is married
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 67
to some little Count or other, of these parts; I remember
meeting her of old. She is nicer than he, I should think, but
rather wicked. I remember there used to be some stories about
her. I don't think I recommend you to know her. But why
don't you ask Madame Merle about these people 1 She knows
them all much better than I."
" I ask you because I want your opinion as well as hers,"
" A fig for my opinion ! If you fall in love with Mr. Osmond,
what will you care for that 1 "
"Not much, probably. But meanwhile it has a certain
importance. The more information one has about a person the
" I don't agree to that. Wo know too much about people
in these days; we hear too much. Our ears, our minds, our
mouths, are stuffed with personalities. Don't mind anything
that any one tells you about any one else. Judge every one and
everything for yourself."
" That's what I try to do," said Isabel ; " but when you do
that people call you conceited."
" You are not to mind them — that's precisely my argument ;
not to mind what they say about yourself any more than what
they say about your friend or your enemy."
Isabel was silent a moment. " I think you are right ; but
there are some things I can't help minding : for instance, when
my friend is attacked, or when I myself am praised."
"Of course you are always at liberty to judge the critic^
Judge people as critics, however," Ealph added, " and you will
condemn them all ! "
" I shall see Mr. Osmond for myself," said Isabel. " I have
promised to pay him a visit."
68 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" To pay him a visit 1 "
" To go and see his view, his pictures, his daughter — I don't
know exactly what. Madame Merle is to take me ; she tells
me a great many ladies call upon him."
"Ah, with Madame Merle you may go anywhere, de con-
fiance," said Ealph. " She knows none but the best people."
Isabel said no more about Mr. Osmond, but she presently
remarked to her cousin that she was not satisfied with his tone
about Madame Merle. "It seems to me that you insinuate
things about her. I don't know what you mean, but if you
have any grounds for disliking her, I think you should either
mention them frankly or else say nothing at all."
Kalph, however, resented this charge with more apparent
earnestness than he commonly used. "I speak > of Madame
Merle exactly as I speak to her : with an even exaggerated
" Exaggerated, precisely. That is what I complain of."
" I do so because Madame Merle's merits are exaggerated."
" By whom, pray 1 By me 1 K so, I do her a poor service."
" No, no ; by herself."
" Ah, I protest ! " Isabel cried with fervour. " If ever there
was a woman who made small claims "
"You put your finger on it," Ralph interrupted. "Her
modesty is exaggerated. She has no business with small claims
— she has a perfect right to make large ones."
" Her merits are large, then. You contradict yourself."
* Her merits are immense," said Ralph. " She is perfect ; she
is the only woman I know who has but that one little fault."
Isabel turned away with impatience. " I don't understand
you ; you are too paradoxical for my plain mind."
" Let me explain. When I say she exaggerates, I don't mean
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 69
it in the vulgar sense — that she boasts, overstates, gives too fine
an account of herself. I mean literally that she pushes the
search for perfection too far — ^that her merits are in themselves
overstrained. She is too good, too kind, too clever, too learned,
too accomplished, too everything. She is too complete, in a
word. I confess to you that she acts a little on my nerves, and
that I feel about her a good deal as that intensely human
Athenian felt about Aristides the Just."
Isabel looked hard at her cousin ; but the mocking spirit, if
it lurked in his words, failed on this occasion to peep from his
eye. "Do you wish Madame Merle to be banished?" she
" By no means. She is much too good company. I delight
in Madame Merle," said Ealph Touchett, simply.
* You are very odious, sir ! " Isabel exclaimed. And then
she asked him if he knew anything that was not to the honour
of her brilliant friend.
" Nothing whatever. Don't you see that is just what I
mean 1 Upon the character of every one else you may find some
little black speck ; if I were to take half-an-hour to it, some
day, I have no doubt I should be able to find one on yours.
For my own, of course, I am spotted like a leopard. But on
Madame Merle's nothing, nothing, nothing 1 "
" That is just what I think ! " said Isabel, with a toss of her
head. " That is why I like her so much."
" She is a capital person for you to know. Since you wish
to see the world you couldn't have a better guide."
" I suppose you mean by that that she is worldly ? "
" Worldly ? No," said Ralph, " she is the world itself ! "
It had certainly not, as Isabel for the moment took it into
her head to believe, been a refinement of malice in him to say
60 THE POETRAIT OF A LADY.
that he delighted in Madame Merle. Ralph Touchett took his
entertainment wherever he could find it, and he would not have
forgiven himself if he had not heen able to find a great deal in
the society of a woman in whom the social virtues existed in
polished perfection. There are deep-lying sympathies and
antipathies ; and it may have been that in spite of the intel-
lectual justice he rendered her, her absence from his mother's
house would not have made life seem barren. But Ralph
Touchett had learned to appreciate, and there could be no better
field for such a talent than the table-talk of Madame Merle. He
talked with her largely, treated her with conspicuous civility,
occupied himself with her and let her alone, with an opportune-
ness which she herself could not have surpassed. There were
moments when he felt almost sorry for her ; and these, oddly
enough, were the moments when his kindness was least demon-
strative. He was sure that she had been richly ambitious, and
that what she had visibly accomplished was far below her
ambition. She had got herself into perfect training, but she had
won none of the prizes. She was always plain Madame Merle,
the widow of a Swiss n^gociant, with a small income and a
large acquaintance, who stayed with people a great deal, and
was universally liked. The contrast between this position and
any one of some half-dozen others which he vividly imagined
her to have had her eyes upon at various moments, had an
element of the tragical. His mother thought he got on beauti-
fully with their pliable guest ; to Mrs. Touchett's sense two
people who dealt so largely in factitious theories of conduct
would have much in common. He had given a great deal of
consideration to Isabel's intimacy with Madame Merle — having
long since made up his mind that he could not, without opposi-
tion, keep his cousin"' to himself; and he regarded it on the
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 61
whole with philosophic tolerance. He believed it would take
care of itself ; it would not last for ever. Neither of these two
superior persons knew the other as well as she supposed, and
when each of them had made certain discoveries, there would be,
if not a rupture, at least a relaxation. Meanwhile he was quite
willing to admit that the conversation of the elder lady was an
advantage to the younger, who had a great deal to learn, and
would doubtless learn it better from Madame Merle than from
some other instructors of the young. It was not probable that
Isabel would be injured.
62 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
It would certainly have been hard to see what injury could
arise to her from the visit she presently paid to Mr. Osmond's
hill-top. Nothing could have been more charming than this
occasion — a soft afternoon in May, in the full maturity of the
Italian spring. The two ladies drove out of the Eoman Gate,
beneath the enormous blank superstructure which crowns the
fine clear arch of that portal and makes it nakedly impressive,
and wound between high-walled lanes, into which the wealth of
blossoming orchards overdrooped and flung a perfume, until
they reached the small superurban piazza, of crooked shape, of
which the long brown wall of the villa occupied in part by Mr.
Osmond, formed the principal, or at least the most imposing,
side. Isabel went with her friend through a wide, high court,
where a clear 8hado\v rested below, and a pair of light-arched
galleries, facing each other above, caught the upper sunshine
upon their slim columns and the flowering plants in which they
were dressed. There was something rather severe about the
place ; it looked somehow as if, once you were in, it would not
be easy to get out. For Isabel, however, there was of course
as yet no thought of getting out, but only of advancing. Mr.
Osmond met her in the cold ante-chamber — it was cold even in
the month of May — and ushered her, with her companion, into
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 63
the apartment to which we have already been introduced.
Madame Merle was in front, and while Isabel lingered a little,
talking with Mr. Osmond, she went forward, familiarly, and
greeted two persons who were seated in the drawing-room.
One of these was little Pansy, on whom she bestowed a kiss ;
the other was a lady whom Mr. Osmond presented to Isabel as
his sister, the Countess Gemini. " And that is my little girl,"
he said, " who has just come out of a convent."
Pansy had on a scanty white dress, and her fair hair was
neatly arranged in a net; she wore a pair of slippers, tied,
sandal-fashion, about her ankles. She made Isabel a little
conventual curtsey, and then came to be kissed. The Countess
Gemini simply nodded, without getting up; Isabel could see
that she was a woman of fashion. She was thin and dark, and
not at all pretty, having features that suggested some tropical
bird — a long beak-like nose, a small, quickly-moving eye, and
a mouth and chin that receded extremely. Her face, however,
thanks to a very human and feminine expression, was by no
means disagreeable, and, as regards her appearance, it was
evident that she understood herself and made the most of her
points. The soft brilliancy of her toilet had the look of
shimmering plumage, and her attitudes were light and sudden,
like those of a creature that perched upon twigs. She had a
great deal of manner ; Isabel, who had never known any one
with so much manner, immediately classified the Countess
Gemini as the most affected of women. She remembered that
Ealph had not recommended her as an acquaintance ; but she
was ready to acknowledge that on a casual view the Countess
presented no appearance of wickedness. Nothing could have
been kinder or more innocent than her greeting to Isabel
" You wUl believe that I am glad to see you when I tell you
64 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
that it is only because I knew you were to be here that I came
myself. I don't come and see my brother — I make him come
and see me. This hill of his is impossible — I don't see what
possesses him. Eeally, Osmond, you will be the ruin of my
horses some day ; and if they receive an injury you will have to
give me another pair. I heard them panting to-day ; I assure
you I did. It is very disagreeable to hear one's horses panting
when one is sitting in the carriage ; it sounds, too, as if they
were not what they should be. But I have always had good
horses; whatever else I may have lacked, I have always
managed that. My husband doesn't know much, but I think
he does know a horse. In general the ItaKans don't, but my
husband goes in, according to his poor light, for everything English.
My horses are English — so it is all the greater pity they should
be ruined. I must tell you," she went on, directly addressing
Isabel, " that Osmond doesn't often invite me ; I don't think he
likes to have me. It was quite my own idea, coming to-
day. I like to see new people, and I am sure you are very
new. But don't sit there; that chair is not what it looks.
There are some very good seats here, but there are also some
These remarks were delivered with a variety of little jerks
and glances, in a tone which, although it expressed a high
degree of good-nature, was rather shrill than sweet.
" I don't like to have you, my dear ? " said her brother. " I
am sure you are invaluable."
" I don't see any horrors anywhere," Isabel declared, looking
about her. " Everything here seems to me very beautiful."
" I have got a few good things," Mr. Osmond murmured ;
"indeed I have nothing very bad. But I have not what I
should have liked."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 65
He stood there a little awkwardly, smiling and glancing
about ; his manner was an odd mixture of the indifferent and
the expressive. He seemed to intimate that nothing was of
much consequence. Isabel made a rapid induction : perfect
simplicity was not the badge of his family. Even the little girl
from the convent, who, in her prim white dress, with her small
submissive face and her hands locked before her, stood there as
if she were about to partake of her first communion — even Mr.
Osmond's diminutive daughter had a kind of finish which was
not entirely artless.
" You would have liked a few things from the Uflfizi and
the Pitti — that's what you would have liked," said Madame
" Poor Osmond, with his old curtains and crucifixes ! " the
Countess Gemini exclaimed; she appeared to call her brother
only by his family-name. Her ejaculation had no particular
object ; she smiled at Isabel as she made it, and looked at her
from head to foot.
Her brother had not heard her ; he seemed to be thinking
what he could say to Isabel. " Won't you have some tea % —
you must be very tired," he at last bethought himself of
" No, indeed, I am not tired ; what have I done to tire me % "
Isabel felt a certain need of being very direct, of pretending to
nothing; there was something in the air, in her general
impression of things — she could hardly have said what it was —
that deprived her of all disposition to put herself forward. The
place, the occasion, the combination of people, signified more
than lay on the surface ; she would try to understand — she
would not simply utter graceful platitudes. Poor Isabel was
perhaps not aware that many women would have uttered
VOL. II. F
66 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
graceful platitudes to cover the working of their observation.
It must be confessed that her pride was a trifle alarmed. A
man whom she had heard spoken of in terms that excited
interest, and who was evidently capable of distinguishing
himself, had invited her, a young lady not lavish of her favours,
to come to his house. Now that she had done so, the burden
of the entertainment rested naturally upon himself. Isabel was
not rendered less observant, and for the moment, I am afraid,
she was not rendered more indulgent, by perceiving that
Mr. Osmond carried his burden less complacently than might
have been expected. " What a fool I was to have invited these
women here ! " she could fancy his exclaiming to himself.
" You will be tired when you go home, if he shows you all his
bibelots and gives you a lecture on each," said the Countess Gemini.
" I am not afraid of that ; but if I am tired, I shall at least
have learned something."
"Very little, I suspect. But my sister is dreadfully afraid
of learning anything," said Mr. Osmond.
*' Oh, I confess to that ; I don't want to know anything more
— I know too much already. The more you know, the more
unhappy you are."
"You should not undervalue knowledge before Pansy, who
has not finished her education," Madame Merle interposed, with
'* Pansy will never know any harm," said the child's father.
" Pansy is a little convent-flower."
" Oh, the convents, the convents ! " cried the Countess, with
a sharp laugh. " Speak to me of the convents. You may learn
anything there ; I am a convent-flower myself. I don't pretend
to be good, but the nuns do. Don't you see what I mean?"
ahe went on, appealing to Isabel.
THE POETRAIT OF A LADY. 67
Isabel was not sure that she saw, and she answered that she
was very bad at following arguments. The Countess then
declared that she herself detested arguments, but that this was
her brother's taste — he would always discuss. " For me," she
said, *' one should like a thing or one shouldn't ; one can't like
everything, of course. But one shouldn't attempt to reason it
out — you never know where it may lead you. There are some
very good feelings that may have bad reasons ; don't you know 1
And then there are very bad feelings, sometimes, that have good
reasons. Don't you see what I mean 1 I don't care anything
about reasons, but I know what I like."
"Ah, that's the great thing," said Isabel, smiling, but sus-
pecting that her acquaintance with this lightly-flitting personage
would not lead to intellectual repose. If the Countess objected
to argument Isabel at this moment had as little taste for it, and
she put out her hand to Pansy with a pleasant sense that such
a gesture committed her to nothing that would admit of a diverg-
ence of opinions. Gilbert Osmond apparently took a rather hope-
less view of his sister's tone, and he turned the conversation to
another topic. He presently sat down on the other side of his
daughter, who had taken Isabel's hand for a moment ; but he
ended by drawing her out of her chair, and making her stand
between his knees, leaning against him while he passed his arm
round her little waist. The child fixed her eyes on Isabel with
a still, disinterested gaze, which seemed void of an intention,
but conscious of an attraction. Mr. Osmond talked of many
things ; Madame Merle had said he could be agreeable when he
chose, and to-day, after a little, he appeared not only to have
chosen, but | to have determined. Madame Merle and the
Countess Gemini sat a little apart, conversing in the effortless
manner of persons who knew each other well enough to take
68 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
their ease ; every now and then Isabel heard the Countess say-
something extravagant. Mr. Osmond talked of Florence, of
Italy, of the pleasure of living in that country, and of the abate-
ments to such pleasure. There were both satisfactions and
drawbacks ; the drawbacks were pretty numerous ; strangers
were too apt to see Italy in rose-colour. On the whole it was
better than other countries, if one was content to lead a quiet
life and take things as they came. It was very dull sometimes,
but there were advantages in living in the country which con-
tained the most beauty. There were certain impressions that
one could get only in Italy. There were others that one never
got there, and one got some that were very bad. But from time
to time one got a delightful one, which made up for everything.
He was inclined to think that Italy had spoiled a great many
people ; he was even fatuous enough to believe at times that he
himself might have been a better man if he had spent less of
his life there. It made people idle and dilettantish, and second-
rate ; there was nothing tonic in an Italian life. One was out
of the current ; one was not dans le mouvement, as the French
said ; one was too far from Paris and London. " We are
gloriously provincial, I assure you," said Mr. Osmond, " and I am
perfectly aware that I myseK am as rusty as a key that has no
lock to fit it. It polishes me up a little to talk with you — not
that I venture to pretend I can turn that very complicated lock
I suspect your intellect of being ! But you wiU be going away
before I have seen you three times, and I shall perhaps never
see you after that. That's what it is to live in a country that
people come to. When they are disagreeable it is bad enough ;
when they are agreeable it is still worse. As soon as you find
you like them they are off again ! I have been deceived too
often ; I have ceased to form attachments ; to permit myself to
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 69
feel attractions. You mean to stay — to settle 1 That would be
really comfortable. Ah yes, your aunt is a sort of guarantee ; I
believe she may be depended upon. Oh, she's an old Florentine ;
I mean literally an old one ; not a modern outsider. She is
a contemporary of the Medici ; she must have been present at
the burning of Savonarola, and I am not sure she didn't throw
a handful of chips into the flame. Her face is very much like
some faces in the early pictures ; little, dry, definite faces, that
must have had a good deal of expression, but almost always the
same one. Indeed, I can show you her portrait in a fresco of
Ghirlandaio's. I hope you don't object to my speaking that
way of your aunt, eh? I have an idea you don't. Perhaps
you think that's even worse. I assure you there is no want of
respect in it, to either of you. You know I'm a particular
admirer of Mrs. Touchett."
While Isabel's host exerted himself to entertain her in this
somewhat confidential fashion, she looked occasionally at
Madame Merle, who met her eyes with an inattentive smile in
which, on this occasion, there was no infelicitous intimation
that our heroine appeared to advantage. Madame Merle event-
ually proposed to the Countess Gemini that they should go into
the garden, and the Countess, rising and shaking out her soft
plumage, began to rustle toward the door.
" Poor Miss Archer ! " she exclaimed, surveying the other
group with expressive compassion. "She has been brought
quite into the family."
" Miss Archer can certainly have nothing but sympathy for a
family to which you belong," Mr. Osmond answered, with a
laugh which, though it had something of a mocking ring, was
" I don't know what you mean by that ! I am sure she wiU
70 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
see no harm in me "but what you tell her. I am better than he
says, Miss Archer," the Countess went on. " I am only rather
light. Is that all he has said % Ah then, you keep him in
good humour. Has he opened on one of his favourite subjects 1
I give you notice that there are two or three that he treats d
fond. In that case you had better take off your bonnet.'*
" I don't think I know what Mr. Osmond's favourite subjects
are," said Isabel, who had risen to her feet.
The Countess assumed, for an instant, an attitude of intense
meditation; pressing one of her hands, with the finger-tips
gathered together, to her forehead.
" I'll teU you in a moment," she answered. " One is Machia-
velli, the other is Yittoria Colonna, the next is Metastasio."
" Ah, with me," said Madame Merle, passing her arm into the
Countess Gemini's, as if to guide her course to the garden, " Mr.
Osmond is never so historical."
" Oh you," the Countess answered as they moved away, " you
yourself *are MachiaveUi — you yourself are Yittoria Colonna ! "
" "We shall hear next that poor Madame Merle is Metastasio ! "
Gilbert Osmond murmured, with a little melancholy smile.
Isabel had got up, on the assumption that they too were to go
into the garden ; but Mr. Osmond stood there, with no apparent
inclination to leave the room, with his hands in the pockets of
his jacket, and his daughter, who had now locked her arm into
one of his own, clinging to him and looking up, while her eyes
moved from his own face to Isabel's. Isabel waited, with a
certain unuttered contentedness, to have her movements directed ;
she liked Mr. Osmond's talk, his company; she felt that she
was being entertained. Through the open doors of the great
room she saw Madame Merle and the Countess stroll across
the deep grass of the garden ; then she turned, and her eyes
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 71
wandered over the things that were scattered about her. The
understanding had been that her host should show her his
treasures; his pictures and cabinets all looked Hke treasures.
Isabel, after a moment, went toward one of the pictures to see
it better ; but just as she had done so Mr. Osborne said to her
"Miss Archer, what do you think of my sister 1"
Isabel turned, with a good deal of surprise.
" Ah, don't ask me that — I have seen your sister too little.*'
" Yes, you have seen her very little ; but you must have
observed that there is not a great deal of her to see. What do
you think of our family tone 1 " Osmond went on, smiling. " I
should like to know how it strikes a fresh, unprejudiced mind.
I know what you are going to say — you have had too little
observation of it. Of course this is only a glimpse. But just
take notice, in future, if you have a chance. I sometimes
think we have got into a rather bad way, living off here among
things and people not our own, without responsibilities or
attachments, with nothing to hold us together or keep us up ;
marrying foreigners, forming artificial tastes, playing tricks with
our natural mission. Let me add, though, that I say that much
more for myself than for my sister. She's a very good woman
— better than she seems. She is rather unhappy, and as she is
not of a very serious disposition, she doesn't tend to show it
tragically ; she shows it comically instead. >She has gotia nasty
husband, though I am not sure she makes the best of him. Of
course, however, a nasty husband is an awkward thing. Madame
Merle gives her excellent advice, but it's a good deal like giving
a child a dictionary to learn a language with. He can look out
the words, but he can't put them together. My sister needs a
grammar, but unfortunately she is not grammatical Excuse
72 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
my troubling you with these details ; my sister was very right
in saying that you have been taken into the family. Let me
take down that picture ; you want more light."
He took down the picture, carried it toward the window,
related some curious facts about it. She looked at the other
works of art, and he gave her such further information as might
appear to be most acceptable to a young lady making a call on a
summer afternoon. His pictures, his carvings and tapestries
were interesting ; but after a while Isabel became conscious that
the owner was more interesting stUl. He resembled no one she
had ever seen ; most of the people she knew might be divided
into groups of half-a-dozen specimens. There were one or two
exceptions to this ; she could think, for instance, of no group
that would contain her aunt Lydia. There were other people
who were, relatively speaking, original — original, as one might
say, by courtesy — such as Mr. Goodwood, as her cousin Ralph,
as Henrietta Stackpole, as Lord Warburton, as Madame Merle.
But in essentials, when one came to look at them, these
individuals belonged to types which were already present to her
mind. Her mind contained no class which offered a natural
place to Mr. Osmond — ^he was a specimen apart. Isabel did
not say all these things to herself at the time ; but she felt them,
and afterwards they became distinct. For the moment she only
said to herself that Mr. Osmond had the interest of rareness.
It was not so much what he said and did, but rather what he
withheld, that distinguished him; he indulged in no striking
deflections from common usage; he was an original without
being an eccentric. Isabel had never met a person of so fine
a grain. The peculiarity was physical, to begin with, and it
extended to his immaterial part His dense, delicate hair, his
overdrawn, retouched features, his clear complexion, ripe with-
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 73
out being coarse, the very evenness of the growth of his beard,
and that light, smooth, slendemess of structure which made the
movement of a single one of his fingers produce the effect of an
expressive gesture — ^these personal points struck our observant
young lady as the signs of an unusual sensibility. He was
certainly fastidious and critical ; he was probably irritable. His
sensibility had governed him — possibly governed him too much;
it had made him impatient of vulgar troubles and had led hini
to live by himself, in a serene, impersonal way, thinking about
art and beauty and history. He had consulted his taste in
everything — his taste alone, perhaps ; that was what made him
so different- from every one else. Ralph had something of this
same quality, this appearance of thinking that life was a matter
of connoisseurship ; but in Ralph it was an anomaly, a kind
of humorous excrescence, whereas in Mr. Osmond it was the
key-note, and everything was in harmony with it. Isabel was
certainly far from understanding him completely ; his meaning
was not at all times obvious. It was hard to see what he
meant, for instance, by saying that he was gloriously provincial
— which was so exactly the opposite of what she had supposed.
"Was it a harmless paradox, intended to puzzle her ] or was it
the last refinement of high culture'? Isabel trusted that she
should learn in time ; it would be very interesting to learn. If
Mr. Osmond were provincial, pray what were the characteristics
of the capital 1 Isabel could ask herself this question, in spite of
having perceived that her host was a shy personage ; for such
shyness as his — the shyness of ticklish nerves and fine perceptions
— was perfectly consistent with the best breeding. Indeed, it
was almost a proof of superior qualities. Mr. Osmond was not a
man of easy assurance, who chatted and gossiped with the fluency
of a superficial nature ; he was critical of himself as well as of
74 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
others, and exacting a good deal of others (to think them agree-
able), he probably took a rather ironical view of what he himself
offered : a proof, into the bargain, that he was not grossly con-
ceited. If he had not been shy, he would not have made that
gradual, subtle, successful effort to overcome his shyness, to which
Isabel felt that she owed both what pleased and what puzzled her
in his conversation to-day. His suddenly asking her what she
thought of the Countess of Gemini — that was doubtless a proof
that he was interested in her feelings ; it could scarcely be as a
help to knowledge of his own sister. That he should be so
interested showed an inquiring mind ; but it was a little singu-
lar that he should sacrifice his fraternal feeling to his curiosity.
This was the most eccentric thing he had done.
There were two other rooms, beyond the one in which she
had been received, equally full of picturesque objects, and in
these apartments Isabel spent a quarter of an hour. Every-
thing was very curious and valuable, and Mr. Osmond continued
to be the kindest of ciceroni, as he led her from one fine piece
to another, still holding his little girl by the hand. His kind-
ness almost surprised our young lady, who wondered why he
should take so much trouble for her ; and she was oppressed at
last with the accumulation of beauty and knowledge to which
she found herself introduced. There was enough for the
present ; she had ceased to attend to what he said ; she listened
to him with attentive eyes, but she was not thinking of what
he told her. He probably thought she was cleverer than she
was; Madame Merle would have told him so; which was a
pity, because in the end he would be sure to find out, and then
perhaps even her real cleverness would not reconcile him to his
mistake. A part of Isabel's fatigue came from the effort to
appear as intelligent as she believed Madame Merle had described
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 75
her, and from the fear (very unusual with her) of exposmg —
not her ignorance ; for that she cared comparatively little — but
her possible grossness of perception. It would have annoyed
her to express a liking for something which her host, in his
superior enlightenment, would think she ought not to like ; or
to pass by something at which the truly initiated mind would
arrest itself. She was very careful, therefore, as to what she
said, as to what she noticed or failed to notice — more careful
than she had ever been before.
They came back into the first of the rooms, where the tea had
been served ; but as the two other ladies were still on the terrace,
and as Isabel had not yet been made acquainted with the view,
which constituted the paramount distinction of the place, Mr.
Osmond directed her steps into the garden without more delay.
Madame Merle and the Countess had had chairs brought out, and
as the afternoon was lovely, the Countess proposed they should
take their tea in the open air. Pansy, therefore, was sent to bid
the servant bring out the tray. The sun had got low, the golden
light took a deeper tone, and on the mountains and the plain
that stretched beneath them, the masses of purple shadow seemed
to glow as richly as the places that were stiU exposed. The
scene had an extraordinary charm. The air was almost solemnly
stni, and the large expanse of the landscape, with its gardenlike
culture and nobleness of outline, its teeming valley and deli-
cately-fretted hills, its peculiarly human-looking touches of
habitation, lay there in splendid harmony and classic grace.
" You seem so well pleased that I think you can be trusted to
come back," Mr. Osmond said, as he led his companion to one of
the angles of the terrace.
" I shall certainly come back," Isabel answered, " in spite of
what you say about its being bad to live in Italy. What was
76 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
that you said about one's natural mission ? I wonder if I
should forsake my natural mission if I were to settle in
" A woman's natural mission is to be where she is most
" The point is to find out where that is."
" Very true — a woman often wastes a great deal of time in the
inquiry. People ought to make it very plain to her."
" Such a matter would have to be made very plain to me/'
said Isabel, smiling.
" I am glad, at any rate, to hear you talk of settling. Madame
Merle had given me an idea that you were of a rather roving
disposition. I thought she spoke of your having some plan of
going round the world."
" I am rather ashamed of my plans ; I make a new one every
" I don't see why you should be ashamed ; it's the greatest of
" It seems frivolous, I think," said Isabel. " One ought to
choose something very deliberately, and be faithful to that."
" By that rule, then, I have not been frivolous."
" Have you never made plans 1 "
" Yes, I made one years ago, and I am acting on it to-day."
" It must have been a very pleasant one," said Isabel.
" It was very simple. It was to be as quiet as possible."
" As quiet 1 " the girl repeated.
" Not to worry — ^not to strive nor struggle. To resign myself*
To be content with a little." He uttered these sentences slowly,
with little pauses between, and his intelligent eyes were fixed
upon Isabel's with the conscious look of a man who has brought
himself to confess something.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 77
" Do you call that simple *? " Isabel asked, with a gentle laugh.
" Yes, because it's negative."
" Has your life been negative 1 "
" Call it affirmative if you like. Only it has affirmed my
indifference. Mind you, not my natural indifference — I had
none. But my studied, my wilful renunciation."
Isabel scarcely understood him ; it seemed a question whether
he were joking or not. Why should a man who struck her as
having a great fund of reserve suddenly bring himself to be so
confidential 1 This was his affair, however, and his confidences
were interesting. " I don't see why you should have renounced,"
she said in a moment.
" Because I could do nothing. I had no prospects, I was
poor, and I was not a man of genius. I had no talents even ; I
took my measure early in life. I was simply the most fastidious
young gentleman living. There were two or three people in
the world I envied — the Emperor of Russia, for instance, and
the Sultan of Turkey! There were even moments when I
envied the Pope of Rome — for the consideration he enjoys. I
should have been delighted to be considered to that extent ;
but since I couldn't be, I didn't care for anything less, and I
made up my mind not to go in for honours. A gentleman can
always consider himself, and fortunately, I was a gentleman. I
could do nothing in Italy — I couldn't even be an Italian patriot.
To do that, I should have had to go out of the country; and I
was too fond of it to leave it. So I have passed a great many
years here, on that quiet plan I spoke of. I have not been at all
unhappy. I don't mean to say I have cared for nothing ; but the
things I have cared for have been definite — limited. The events
of my life have been absolutely unperceived by any one save
myself ; getting an old silver crucifix at a bargain (I have never
78 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
bought anything dear, of course), or discovering, as I once did, a
sketch by Correggio on a panel daubed over by some inspired
idiot ! "
This would have been rather a dry account of Mr. Osmond's
career if Isabel had fully believed it ; but her imagination sup-
plied the human element which she was sure had not been
wanting. His life had been mingled with other lives more than
he admitted ; of course she could not expect him to enter into
this. For the present she abstained from provoking further
revelations; to intimate that he had not told her everything
would be more familiar and less considerate than she now desired
to be. He had certainly told her quite enough. It was her
present inclination, however, to express considerable sympathy
for the success with which he had preserved his independence.
" That's a very pleasant life," she said, " to renounce everything
but Correggio ! "
" Oh, I have been very happy ; don't imagine me to suggest
for a moment that I have not It's one's own fault if one is not
" Have you lived here always *? "
" No, not always. I lived a long time at Naples, and many
years in Eome. But I have been here a good while. Perhaps I
shall have to change, however ; to do something else. I have
no longer myself to think of. My daughter is growing up, and
it is very possible she may not care so much for the Correggios
and crucifixes as L I shall have to do what is best for her."
" Yes, do that," said Isabel " She is such a dear little
" Ah," cried Gilbert Osmond, with feeling, " she is a little
saint of heaven 1 She is my great happiness ! "
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 79
"While this sufficiently intimate colloquy (prolonged for some
time after we cease to follow it) was going on, Madame Merle
and her companion, breaking a silence of some duration, had
begun to exchange remarks. They were sitting in an attitude
of unexpressed expectancy; an attitude especially marked ou
the part of the Countess Gemini, who, being of a more nervous
temperament than Madame Merle, practised with less success
the art of disguising impatience. What these ladies were
waiting for would not have been apparent, and was perhaps not
very definite to their own minds. Madame Merle waited for
Osmond to release their young friend from her tSte-d-tete, and
the Countess waited because Madame Merle did. The Countess,
moreover, by waiting, found the time ripe for saying something
discordant ; a necessity of which she had been conscious for the
last twenty minutes. Her brother wandered with Isabel to the
end of the garden, and she followed the pair for a while with
" My dear," she then observed to Madame Merle, ** you will
excuse me if I don't congratulate you ! "
"Very willingly; for I don't in the least know why you
" Haven't you a little plan that you think rather well of 1 "
And the Countess nodded towards the retreating couple.
80 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Madame Merle's eyes took the same direction ; then she
looked serenely at her neighbour. " You know I never under-
stand you very well," she answered, smiling. '
" No one can understand better than you when you wish. I
see that, just now, you don't wish to."
" You say things to me that no one else does," said Madame
Merle, gravely, but without bitterness.
" You mean things you don't like 1 Doesn't Osmond some-
times say such things 1 "
** What your brother says has a point."
" Yes, a very sharp one sometimes. If you mean that I am
not so clever as he, you must not think I shall suffer from your
saying it. But it will be much better that you should under-
" Why so ] " asked Madame Merle ; " what difference will it
" If I don't approve of your plan, you ought to know
it in order to appreciate the danger of my interferiug with
Madame Merle looked as if she were ready to admit that
there might be something in this; but in a moment she said
quietly — " You think me more calculating than I am."
"It's not your calculating that I think ill of; it's your
calculating wrong. You have done so in this case."
"You must have made extensive calculations yourself to
" No, I have not had time for that. I have seen the girl but
this once," said the Countess, " and the conviction has suddenly
come to me. I like her very much."
" So do I," Madame Merle declared.
" You have a strange way of showing it."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 81
"Surely — I have given her the advantage of making your
" That, indeed," cried the Countess, with a laugh, " is perhaps
the best thing that could happen to her ! "
Madame Merle said nothing for some time. The Countess's
manner was impertinent, but she did not suffer this to dis-
compose her ; and with her eyes upon the violet slope of Monte
Morello she gave herself up to reflection.
"My dear lady," she said at last, "I advise you not to
agitate yourself. The matter you allude to concerns three
persons much stronger of purpose than yourself."
"Three persons] You and Osmond, of course. But is Miss
Archer also very strong of purpose 1 "
" Quite as much so as we."
" Ah then," said the Countess radiantly, " if I convince her
it's her interest to resist you, she will do so successfully 1 "
"Resist usi Why do you express yourself so coarsely?
She is not to be subjected to force."
" I am not sure of that. You are capable of anything, you
and Osmond. I don't mean Osmond by himself, and I don't
mean you by yourself. But together you are dangerous — like
some chemical combination."
" You had better leave us alone, then," said Madame Merle,
" I don't mean to touch you — but I shall talk to that girL"
"My poor Amy," Madame Merle murmured, "I don't see
what has got into your head."
" I take an interest in her — that is what has got into my
head. I like her."
Madame Merle hesitated a moment. "I don't think she
VOL. II. Q
82 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
The Countess's bright little eyes expanded, and her face was
set in a grimace. "Ah, you are dangerous," she cried, "even
by yourself ! "
" If you want her to like you, don't abuse your brother to
her," said Madame Merle.
"I don't suppose you pretend she has fallen in love with
him — in two interviews."
Madame Merle looked a moment at Isabel and at the master
of the house. He was leaning against the parapet, facing her,
with his arms folded ; and she, at present, though she had her
face turned to the opposite prospect, was evidently not scruti-
nising it. As Madame Merle watched her she lowered her
eyes ; she was listening, possibly with a certain embarrassment,
while she pressed the point of her parasol into the path.
Madame Merle rose from her chair. " Yes, I think so ! " she
The shabby footboy, summoned by Pansy, had come out
with a small table, which he placed upon the grass, and then
had gone back and fetched the tea-tray ; after which he again
disappeared, to return with a couple of chairs. Pansy had
watched these proceedings with the deepest interest, standing
with her small hands folded together upon the front of her
scanty frock ; but she had not presumed to offer assistance to
the servant. When the tea-table had been arranged, however,
she gently approached her aunt.
" Do you think papa would object to my making the tea 1 "
The Countess looked at her with a deliberately critical gaze,
and without answering her question. "My poor niece," she
said, " is that your best frock 1 "
"Ah no," Pansy answered, "it's just a little toilet for
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 83
" Do you call it a common occasion when I come to see you?
— to say nothing of Madame Merle and the pretty lady yonder/*
Pansy reflected a moment, looking gravely from one of the
persons mentioned to the other. Then her face broke into its
perfect smile. "I have a pretty dress, but even that one is
very simple. "Why should I expose it beside your beautiful
" Because it's the prettiest you have ; for me you must always
wear the prettiest. Please put it on the next time. It seems
to me they don't dress you so well as they might."
The child stroked down her antiquated skirt, sparingly. " It's
a good little dress to make tea — don't you think 1 Do you not
believe papa would allow me ? "
** Impossible for me to say, my child," said the Countess.
"For me, your father's ideas are unfathomable. Madame
Merle understands them better; ask her."
Madame Merle smiled with her usual geniality. "It's a
weighty question — let me think. It seems to me it would
please your father to see a careful little daughter making his
tea. It's the proper duty of the daughter of the house — when
she grows up."
" So it seems to me, Madame Merle ! " Pansy cried. " You
shall see how well I will make it. A spoonful for each." And
she began to busy herself at the table.
" Two spoonfuls for me," said the Countess, who, with
Madame Merle, remained for some moments watching her.
"Listen to me, Pansy," the Countess resumed at last. "I
should like to know what you think of your visitor."*
" Ah, she is not mine — she is papa's," said Pansy.
"Miss Archer came to see you as well," Madame Merle
84 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" I am very happy to hear that. She has heen very polite to me."
" Do you like her, then ] " the Countess asked.
" She is charmmg— charming," said Pansy, m her little neat,
conversational tone. ". She pleases me exceedingly,"
" And you think she pleases your father 1 "
"Ah, really. Countess," murmured Madame Merle, dissua-
sively. " Gro and call them to tea," she went on, to the child.
" You will see if they don't like it ! " Pansy declared ; and
went off to summon the others, who were still lingering at the
end of the terrace.
" If Miss Archer is to become her mother it is surely interest-
ing to know whether the child likes her," said the Countess.
" If your brother marries again it won't be for Pansy's sake,''
Madame Merle replied. " She will soon be sixteen, and after
that she will begin to need a husband rather than a stepmother."
" And will you provide the husband as well 1 "
" I shall certainly take an interest in her marrying welL I
imagine you will -do the same."
" Indeed I shan't ! " cried the Countess. " Why should I,
of all women, set such a price on a husband 1 "
" You didn't marry well ; that's what I am speaking of.
When I say a husband, I mean a good one."
" There are no good ones. Osmond won't be a good one."
Madame Merle closed her eyes a moment. " You are irritated
just now ; I don't know why," she said, presently. " I don't
think you will really object either to your brother, or to your
niece's, marrying, when the time comes for them to do so ; and
as regards Pansy, I am confident that we shall some day have the
pleasure of looking for a husband for her together. Your large
acquaintance will be a great help."
" Yes, I am irritated," the Countess answered. " You often
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 85
irritate me. Your own coolness is fabulous ; you are a
"It is much better that we should always act together,"
Madame Merle went on.
'* Do you mean that as a threat? " asked the Countess, rising.
Madame Merle shook her head, with a smile of sadness. " No
indeed, you have not my coolness 1 "
Isabel and Mr. Osmond were now coming toward them, and
Isabel had taken Pansy by the hand.
" Do you pretend to believe he would make her happy 1 " the
" If he should marry Miss Archer I suppose he would behave
like a gentleman."
The Countess jerked herself into a succession of a;ttitudes.
"Do you mean as most gentlemen behave? That would be
much to be thankful for 1 Of course Osmond's a gentleman ;
his own sister needn't be reminded of that. But does he think
he can marry any girl he happens to pick out ] Osmond's a
gentleman, of course ; but I must say I have never, no never,
seen any one of Osmond's pretensions ! What they are all based
upon is more than I can say. I am his own sister ; I might be
supposed to know. Who is he, if you please 1 What has he
ever done ] If there had been anything particularly grand in
his origiu — if he were made of some superior clay — I suppose I
should have got some inkling of it. If there had been any great
honours or splendours in the family, I should certainly have
made the most of them ; they would have been quite in my
line. But there is nothing, nothing, nothing. One's parents
were charming people of course ; but so were yours, I have no
doubt. Every one is a charming person, now-a-days. Even
I am a charming person; don't laugh, it haa UteraUy been said.
86 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
As for Osmond, he has always appeared to believe that he is
descended from the gods."
" You may say what you please," said Madame Merle, who
had Hstened to this quick outbreak none the less attentively, we
may believe, because her eye wandered away from the speaker,
and her hands busied themselves with adjusting the knots of
ribbon on her dress. " You Osmonds are a fine race — your
blood must flow from some very pure source. Your brother,
like an intelligent man, has had the conviction of it, if he has
not had the proofs. You are modest about it, but you yourself
are extremely distinguished. What do you say about your
niece 1 The child's a little duchess. Nevertheless," Madame
Merle added, " it will not be an easy matter for Osmond to
marry Miss Archer. But he can try."
" I hope she will refuse him. It will take him down a little."
" We must not forget that he is one of the cleverest of men.*'
" I have heard you say that before ; but I haven't yet dis-
covered what he has done."
" What he has done 1 He has done nothing that has had to
be undone. And he has known how to wait."
" To wait for Miss Archer's money 1 How much of it is
"That's not what I mean," said Madame Merle. "Miss
Archer has seventy thousand pounds."
" Well, it is a pity she is so nice," the Countess declared.
" To be sacrificed, any girl would do. She needn't be superior."
'" If she were not superior, your brother would never look at
her. He must have the best."
" Yes," rejoined the Countess, as they went forward a little to
meet the others, " he is very hard to please. That makes me
fear for her happiness ! "
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 87
Gilbert Osmond came to see Isabel again ; that is, he came
to the Palazzo Crescentini. He had other friends there as well ;
and to Mrs. Touchett and Madame Merle he was always impar-
tially civil ; but the former of these ladies noted the fact that in
the course of a fortnight he called five times, and compared it
with another fact that she found no difficulty in remembering.
Two visits a year had hitherto constituted his regular tribute to
Mrs. Touchett's charms, and she had never observed that he
selected for such visits those moments, of almost periodical
recurrence, when Madame Merle was under her roof. It was
not for Madame Merle that he came ; these two were old friends,
and he never put himself out for her. He was not fond of
Ralph — Ralph had told her so— and it was not supposable that
Mr. Osmond had suddenly taken a fancy to her son. Ralph was
imperturbable-Kalph had a kind of looae-fitting urbanity that
wrapped him about like an ill-made overcoat, but of which he
never divested himself ; he thought Mr. Osmond very good com-
pany, and would have been willing at any time to take the hos-
pitable view of his idiosyncracies. But he did not flatter him-
self that the desire to repair a past injustice was the motive of
their visitor's calls ; he read the situation more clearly. Isabel
was the attraction, and in all conscience a sufficient one. Osmond
88 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
was a critic, a student of . the exquisite, and it was natural lie
should admire an admirable person. So when his mother said
to him that it was very plain what Mr. Osmond was thinking of,
Ralph replied that he was quite of her opinion. Mrs. Touchett
had always liked Mr. Osmond ; she thought him so much of a
gentleman. As he had never been an importunate visitor he
had had no chance to be offensive, and he was recommended to
Mrs. Touchett by his appearance of being as well able to do
without her as she was to do without him — a quality that always
excited her esteem. It gave her no satisfaction, however, to
think that he had taken it into his head to marry her niece.
Such an alliance, on Isabel's part, would have an air of almost
morbid perversity. Mrs. Touchett easily remembered that the
girl had refused an English peer ; and that a young lady for
whom Lord "Warburton had not been up to the . mark should
content herself with an obscure American dilettante, a middle-
aged widower with an overgrown daughter and an income of
nothing — this answered to nothing in Mrs. Touchett's conception
of success. She took, it will be observed, not the sentimental|
but the political, view of matrimony — a view which has always
had much to recommend it. " I trust she won't have the folly
to listen to him," she said to her son ; to which Ralph replied
that Isabel's listening was one thing and her answering quite
another. He knew that she had listened to others, but that she
had made them listen to her in return ; and he found much
entertainment in the idea that, in these few months that he had
known her, he should see a third suitor at her gate. She had
wanted to see life, and fortune was serving her to her taste ; a
succession of gentlemen going down on their knees to her was
by itself a respectable chapter of experience. Ralph looked
forward to a fourth and a fifth soupirant ; he had no conviction
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 89
that she would stop at a third. She would keep the gate ajar
and open a parley ; she would certainly not allow number three
to come in. He expressed this view, somewhat after this
fashion, to his mother, who looked at him as if he had been
dancing a jig. He had such a fanciful, pictorial way of saying
things that he might as well address her in the deaf-mute's
" I don't think I know what you mean," she said ; " you use
too many metaphors ; I could never understand allegories. The
two words in the language I most respect are Yes and No. If
Isabel wants to marry Mr. Osmond, she will do so in spite of all
your similes. Let her alone to find a favourable comparison for
anything she undertakes. I know very little about the young
man in America ; I don't think she spends much of her time in
thinking of him, and I suspect he has got tired of waiting for
her. There is nothing in life to prevent her marrying Mr.
Osmond, if she only looks at him in a certain way. That is all
very well ; no one approves more than I of one's pleasing one's
self. But she takes her pleasure in such odd things ; she is
capable of marrying Mr. Osmond for his opinions. She wants
to be disinterested : aa if she were the only person who is in
danger of not being so ! "Will he be so disinterested when he
has the spending of her money ] That was her idea before your
father's death, and it has acquired new charms for her since.
She ought to marry some one of whose disinterestedness she
should be sure, herself; and there would be no such proof of
that as his having a fortune of his own."
" My dear mother, I am not afraid," Ralph answered. " She
is making fools of us all. She will please herself, of course ; but
she will do so by studying human nature and retaining her
liberty. She has started on an exploring expedition, and I don't
90 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
think she will change her course, at the outset, at a signal from
Gilbert Osmond. She may have slackened speed for an hour,
but before we know it she will be steaming away again. Excuse
Mrs. Touchett excused it perhaps, but she was not so much
reassured as to withhold from Madame Merle the expression
of her fears. **You who know everything,'* she said, "you
must know this : whether that man is making love to my
Madame Merle opened her expressive eyes, and with a bril-
liant smile — ** Heaven help us," she exclaimed, " that's an
idea ! "
" Has it never occurred to you 1 "
"You make me feel like a fool — but I confess it hasn't. I
wonder," added Madame Merle, " whether it has occurred to
" I think I will ask her," said Mrs. Touchett.
Madame Merle reflected a moment. " Don't put it into her
head. The thing would be to ask Mr. Osmond."
"I can't do that," said Mrs. Touchett; "it's none of my
" I will ask him myself," Madame Merle declared, bravely.
" It's none of yours, either."
" That's precisely why I can afford to ask him ; it is so much
less my business than any one's else, that in me the question will
not seem to him embarrassing."
" Pray let me know on the first day, then," said Mrs. Touchett.
** If I can't speak to him, at least I can speak to her."
" Don't^be too quick with her ; don't inflame her imagination."
" I never did anything to any one's imagination. But I am
always sure she will do something I don't like."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. [91
" You wouldn't like this," Madame Merle observed, without
the point of interrogation.
" Why should I, pray 1 Mr. Osmond has nothing to oflfer."
Again Madame Merle was silent, while her thoughtful smile
drew up her mouth more than usual toward the left comer*
" Let us distinguish. Gilbert Osmond is certainly not the first
comer. He is a man who under favourable circumstances might
very well make an impression. He has made an impression, to
my knowledge, more than once."
" Don't tell me about his love-affairs ; they are nothing to
me ! " Mrs. Touchett cried. " What you say is precisely why I
wish he would cease his visits. He has nothing in the world
that I know of but a dozen or two of early masters and a grown-
" The early masters are worth a good deal of money," said
Madame Merle, " and the daughter is a very young and very
" In other words, she is an insipid school-girl. Is that what
you mean ] Having no fortune, she can't hope to marry, as they
marry here ; so that Isabel will have to furnish her either with a
maintenance or with a dowry."
" Isabel probably would not object to being kind to her. I
think she likes the child."
" Another reason for Mr. Osmond stopping at home ! Other-
wise, a week hence, we shall have Isabel arriving at the convic-
tion that her mission .in life is to prove that a stepmother may
sacrifice herself — and that, to prove it, she must first become one."
" She would make a charming stepmother," said Madame
Merle, smiling ; " but I quite agree with you that she had better
not decide upon her mission too hastily. Changing one's mission
is often awkward I I will investigate and report to you."
92 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
All this went on quite over Isabers head ; she had no sus-
picion that her relations with Mr. Osmond were being discussed.
Madame Merle had said nothing to put her on her guard ; she
alluded no more pointedly to Mr. Osmond than to the other
gentlemen of Florence, native and foreign, who came in consider-
able numbers to pay their respects to Miss Archer's aunt. Isabel
thought him very pleasant ; she liked to think of him. She had
carried away an image from her visit to his hill-top which her
subsequent knowledge of him did nothing to efface and which
happened td take her fancy particularly — the image of a quiet,
clever, sensitive, distinguished man, strolling on a moss-grown
terrace above the sweet Val d'Amo, and holding by the hand a
little girl whose sympathetic docility gave a new aspect to child-
hood. The picture was not brilliant, but she liked its lowness
of tone, and the atmosphere of summer twilight that pervaded
it. It seemed to tell a story — a story of the sort that touched
her most easily ; to speak of a serious choice, a choice between
things of a shallow, and things of a deep, interest ; of a lonely,
studious life in a lovely land ; of an old sorrow that sometimes
ached to-day ; a feeling of pride that was perhaps exaggerated,
but that had an element of nobleness ; a care for beauty and
perfection so natural and so cultivated together, that it had been
the main occupation of a lifetime of which the arid places were
watered with the sweet sense of a quaint, half-anxious, half-
helpless fatherhood. At the Palazzo Crescentini Mr. Osmond's
manner remained the same ; shy at first, and fuU of the effort
(visible only to a sympathetic eye) to overcome this disadvan-
tage ; an effort which usually resulted in a great deal of easy,
lively, very positive, rather aggressive, and always effective, talk.
Mr. Osmond's talk was not injured by the indication of an eager-
ness to shine ; Isabel found no difficulty in believing that a
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 93
person was sincere who had so many of the signs of strong con-
viction — ^as, for instance, an explicit and graceful appreciation of
anything that might be said on his own side, said perhaps by
Miss Archer in particular. What continued to please this young
lady Vas his extraordinary subtlety. There was such a fine
intellectual intention in what he said, and the movement of his
wit was like that of a quick-flashing blade. One day he brought
his little daughter with him, and Isabel was delighted to renew
acquaintance with the child, who, as she presented her forehead
to be kissed by every member of the circle, reminded her vividly
of an ingenue in a French play. Isabel had never seen a young
girl of this pattern ; American girls were very different — different
too were the daughters of England. This young lady was so
neat, so complete in her manner ; and yet in character, as one
could see, so innocent and infantine. She sat on the sofa, by
Isabel ; she wore a small grenadine mantle and a pair of the
useful gloves that Madame Merle had given her — little grey
gloves, with a single button. She was like a sheet of blank
paper — the idiQ?! jeune fille of foreign fiction. Isabel hoped that
so fair and smooth a page would be covered with an edifying
The Countess Gremini also came to call upon her, but the
Countess was quite another affair. She was by no means a blank
sheet ; she had been written over in a variety of hands, and Mrs.
Touchett, who felt by no means honoured by her visit, declared
that a number of unmistakable blots were to be seen upon her
surface. The Countess Gemini was indeed the occasion of a
slight discussion between the mistress of the house and the
visitor from Eome, in which Madame Merle (who was not such
a fool as to irritate people by always agreeing with them)
^vailed herself humorously of that large license of dissent which
94 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
her hostess permitted as freely as she practised it. Mrs. Touchett
had pronounced it a piece of audacity that the Countess Gemini
should have presented herself at this time of day at the door of
a house in which she was esteemed so little as she must long
have known herself to be at the Palazzo Crescentini Isabel
had been made acquainted with the estimate which prevailed
under this roof ; it represented Mr. Osmond's sister as a kind
of flighty reprobate. She had been married by her mother — a
heartless featherhead like herself, with an appreciation of foreign
titles which the daughter, to do her justice, had probably by this
time thrown off — to an Italian nobleman who had perhaps given
her some excuse for attempting to quench the consciousness of
neglect. The Countess, however, had consoled herself too well,
and it was notorious in Florence that she had consoled others
also. Mrs. Touchett had never consented to receive her, though
the Countess had made overtures of old. Florence was not an
austere city ; but, as Mrs. Touchett said, she had to draw the
Madame Merle defended the unhappy lady with a great deal
of zeal and wit. She could not see why Mrs. Touchett should
make a scapegoat of that poor Countess, who had really done no
harm, who had only done good in the wrong way. One must
certainly draw the line, but while one was about it one should
draw it straight; it was a very crooked chalk-mark that would
exclude the Countess GreminL In that case Mrs. Touchett had
better shut up her house ; this perhaps would be the best course
so long as she remained in Florence. One must be fair and not
make arbitrary differences; the Countess had doubtless been
imprudent ; she had not been so clever as other women. She
was a good creature, not clever at all ; but since when had that
been a ground of exclusion from the best society 1 It was a long
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 95
time since one had heard anything about her, and there could be
no better proof of her having renounced the error of her ways
than her desire to become a member of Mrs. Touchett^s circle,
Isabel could contribute nothing to this interesting dispute, not
even a patient attention; she contented herself with having
given a friendly welcome to the Countess Gemini, who, whatever
her defects, had at least the merit of being Mr. Osmond's sister.
As she liked the brother, Isabel thought it proper to try and like
the sister ; in spite of the growing perplexity of things she was
still perfectly capable of these rather primitive sequences of feel-
ing. She had not received the happiest impression of the Countess
on meeting her at the villa, but she was thankful for an oppor-
tunity to repair this accident. Had not Mr. Osmond declared
that she was a good woman 1 To have proceeded from Gilbert
Osmond, this was rather a rough statement ; but Madame Merle
bestowed upon it a certain improving polish. She told Isabel
more about the poor Countess than Mr. Osmond had done, and
related the history of her marriage and its consequences. The
Count was a member of an ancient Tuscan family, but so poor
that he had been glad to accept Amy Osmond, in spite of her
being no beauty, with the modest dowry her mother was able to
offer — a sum about equivalent to that which had already formed
her brother's share of their patrimony. Count Gemini, since then,
however, had inherited money, and now they were well enough
off, as Italians went, though Amy was horribly extravagant.
The Count was a low-lived brute ; he had given his wife every
excuse. She had no children ; she had lost three within a year
of their birth. Her mother, who had pretensions to ** culture,"
wrote descriptive poems, and corresponded on Italian subjects
with the English weekly journals — ^her mother had died three
years after the Countess's marriage, the father having died long
96 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
before. One could see this in Gilbert Osmond, Madame Merle
thought — see that he had been brought up by a woman ; though,
to do him justice, one would suppose it had been by a more
sensible woman than the American Corinne, as Mrs. Osmond
liked to be called. She had brought her children to Italy after
her husband's death, and Mrs. Touchett remembered her during
the years that followed her arrival She thought her a horrible
snob 3 but this was an irregularity of judgment on Mrs. Touchett's
part, for she, like Mrs. Osmond, approved of political marriages.
The Countess was very good company, and not such a fool as
she seemed; one got on with her perfectly if one observed a
single simple condition — that of not believing a word she said.
Madame Merle had always made the best of her for her brother's
sake; he always appreciated any kindness shown to Amy,
because (if it had to be confessed for him) he was rather ashamed
of her. Naturally, he couldn't like her style, her loudness, her
want of repose. She displeased him ; she acted on his nerves ;
she was not Ms sort of woman. What was his sort of woman 1
Oh, the opposite of the Countess, a woman who should always
speak the truth. Isabel was unable to estimate the number of
fibs her visitor had told her ; the Countess indeed had given her
an impression of rather silly sincerity. She had talked almost
exclusively about herseK; how much she should like to know
Miss Archer ; how thankful she should be for a real friend ; how
nasty the people in Florence were ; how tired she was of the
place; how much she should like to live somewhere else — in
Paris, or London, or St. Petersburg ; how impossible it was to
get anything nice to wear in Italy, except a little old lace ; how
dear the world was growing everywhere ; what a life of suflfering
and privation she had led. Madame Merle listened with interest
to Isabel's account of her conversation with this plaintive butter-
THE PORTRAIT OF A lADY. 97
fly; but she had not needed it to feel exempt from anxiety.
On the whole, she was not afraid of the Countess, and she
could afford to do what was altogether best — ^not to appear so.
Isabel had another visitor, whom it was not, even behind her
back, so easy a matter to patronise. Henrietta Stackpole, who
had left Paris after Mrs. Touchett's departure for San Eemo
and had worked her way down, as she said, through the cities
of i^orth Italy, arrived in Florence about the middle of May.
Madame Merle surveyed her with a single glance, comprehended
her, and, after a moment's concentrated reflection, determined
to like her. She determined, indeed, to delight in her. To
like her was impossible ; but the intenser sentiment might be
managed. Madame Merle managed it beautifully, and Isabel
felt that in foreseeing this event she had done justice to her
friend's breadth of mind. Henrietta's arrival had been announced
by Mr. Bantling, who, coming down from Nice while she was
at Venice, and expecting to find her in Florence, which she had
not yet reached, came to the Palazzo Crescentini to express his
disappointment. Henrietta's own advent occurred two days
later, and produced in Mr. Bantling an emotion amply accounted
for by the fact that he had not seen her since the termination
of the episode at Versailles. The humorous view of his situation
was generally taken, but it was openly expressed only by Ealph
Touchett, who, in the privacy of his own apartment, when
Bantling smoked a cigar there, indulged in Heaven knows what
genial pleasantries on the subject of the incisive Miss Stackpole
and her British ally. This gentleman took the joke in perfectly
good part, and artlessly confessed that he regarded the affair as
an intellectual flirtation. He liked Miss .Stackpole extremely;
he thought she had a wonderful head on her shoulders, and
found great comfort in the society of a woman who was not
VOL. II. H
98 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
perpetually thinking about wliat would he said and how it
would look. Miss Stackpole never cared how it looked, and if
she didn't care, pray why should he 1 But his curiosity had
been roused ; he wanted awfully to see whether she ever would
care. He was prepared to go as far as she — ^he did not see why
he should stop first.
Henrietta showed no signs of stopping at all. Her prospects,
as we know, had brightened upon her leaving England, and she
was now in the full enjoyment of her copious resources. She
had indeed been obliged to sacrifice her hopes with regard to the
inner life ; the social question, on the continent, bristled with
difl&culties even more numerous than those she had encountered
in England. But on the continent there was the outer life,
which was palpable and visible at every turn, and more easily
convertible to literary uses than the customs of those opaque
islanders. Out of doors, in foreign lands, as Miss Stackpole
ingeniously remarked, one seemed to see the right side of the
tapestry ; out of doors, in England, one seemed to see the wrong
side, which gave one no notion of the figure. It is mortifying
to be obliged to confess it, but Henrietta, despairing of more
occult things, was now paying much attention to the outer life.
She had been studying it for two months at Venice, from which
city she sent to the Interviewer a conscientious account of the
gondolas, the Piazza, the Bridge of Sighs, the pigeons and the
young boatman who chanted Tasso. The Interviewer was
perhaps disappointed, but Henrietta was at least seeing Europe.
Her present purpose was to get down to Eome before the malaria
should come on — she apparently supposed that it began on a
fixed day ; and with this design she was to spend at present but
few days in Florence. Mr. Bantling was to go with her to
Borne, and she pointed out to Isabel that as he had been there
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 99
before, as he was a military man, and as he had had a classical
education — he was brought up at Eton, where they study nothing
but Latin, said Miss Stackpole — he would be a most useful
companion in the city of the Caesars. At this juncture Ealph
had the happy idea of proposing to Isabel that she also, under
his own escort, should make a pilgrimage to Eome. She
expected to pass a portion of the next winter there — that was
very well ; but meantime there was no harm in surveying the
field. There were ten days left of the beautiful month of May
— the most precious month of all to the true Eome-lover. Isabel
would become a Eome-lover; that was a foregone conclusion.
She was provided with a well-tested companion of her own sex,
whose society, thanks to the fact that she had other calls upon
her sympathy, would probably not be oppressive. Madame
Merle would remain with Mrs. Touchett ; she had left Eome
for the summer and would not care to return. This lady pro-
fessed herself delighted to be left at peace in Florence ; she had
locked up her apartment and sent her cook home to Palestrina.
She urged Isabel, however, to assent to Ealph's proposal, and
assured her that a good introduction to Eome was not a thing
to be despised. Isabel, in truth, needed noi urging, and the
party of four arranged its little journey. Mrs. Touchett, on
this occasion, had resigned herself to the absence of a duenngi ;
we have seen that she now inclined to the belief that her niece
should stand alone.
Isabel saw Gilbert Osmond before she started, and mentioned
her intention to him.
" I should like to be in Eome with you," he said ; " I should
like to see you there."
She hesitated a moment.
" You might come, then."
100 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" But you'll have a lot of people with you."
" Ah," Isabel admitted, " of course I shall not he alone."
For a moment he said nothing more.
"You'll like it," he went on, at last. "They have spoiled
it, hut you'U like it."
" Ought I to dislike it, because it's spoiled ? " she asked.
" No, I think not. It has been spoiled so often. If I were
to go, what should I do with my little girl ] "
" Can't you leave her at the villa 1 "
"I don't know that I like that — though there is a very
good old woman who looks after her. I can't aflford a
" Bring her with you, then," said Isabel, smiling.
Mr. Osmond looked grave.
" She has been in Eome all winter, at her convent ; and she
is too young to make journeys of pleasure."
" You don't like bringing her forward 1 " Isabel suggested.
" No, I think young girls should be kept out of the world."
" I was brought up on a different system."
" You 1 Oh, with you it succeeded, because you — you were
" I don't see why," said Isabel, who, however, was not sure
there was not some truth in the speech.
Mr. Osmond did not explain; he simply went on. "If I
thought it would make her resemble you to join a social group
in Rome, I would take her there to-morrow."
" Don't make her resemble me," said Isabel ; " keep her like
" I might send her to my sister," Mr. Osmond suggested. He
had almost the air of asking advice ; he seemed to like to talk
over his domestic matters with Isabel
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 101
" Yes," said the girl ; " I think that would not do much
towards making her resemble me ! "
After she had left Florence, Gilbert Osmond met Madame
Merle at the Countess Gemini's. There v^re other people
present; the Countess's drawing-room was usually well filled,
and the talk had been general ; but after a while Osmond left
his place and came and sat on an ottoman half-behind, half-
beside, Madame Merle's chair.
" She wants me to go to Eome with her," he announced, in
a low voice.
"To go with her?"
" To be there while she is there. She proposed it."
" I suppose you mean that you proposed it, and that she
" Of course I gave her a chance. But she is encouraging —
she is very encouraging."
" I am glad to hear it — but don't cry victory too soon. Of
course you will go to Eome."
" Ah," said Osmond, " it makes one work, this idea of
" Don't pretend you don't enjoy it — you are very ungrateful.
You have not been so well occupied these many years."
" The way you take it is beautiful," said Osmond. " I ought
to be grateful for that."
" Not too much so, however," Madame Merle answered. She
talked with her usual smile,- leaning back in her chair, and
looking round the room. " You have made a very good im-
pression, and I have seen for myself that you have received one.
You have not come to Mrs. Touchett's seven times to oblige
The girl is not disagreeable," Osmond quietly remarked.
102 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Madame Merle dropped her eye on him a moment, during
which her lips closed with a certain firmness.
" Is that all you can find to say about that fine creature 1 "
"All? Isn't it enough] Of how many people have you
heard me say more 1 "
She made no answer to this, but still presented her convers-
ational smile to the room.
" You're unfathomable," she murmured at last. " I am
frightened at the abyss into which I shall have dropped her ! "
Osmond gave a laugh.
" You can't draw back — you have gone too far."
" Very good ; but you must do the rest yourself."
" I shall do it," said Osmond.
Madame Merle remained silent, and he changed his place
again; but when she rose to go he also took leave. Mrs.
Touchett's victoria was awaiting her in the court, and after he
had helped Madame Merle into it he stood there detaining her.
" You are very indiscreet," she said, rather wearily ; " you
should not have moved when I did."
He had taken off his hat; he passed his hand over his
" I always forget ; I am out of the habit."
" You are quite unfathomable," she repeated, glancing up at
the windows of the house ; a modern structure in the new part
of the town.
He paid no heed to this remark, but said to Madame Merle,
with a considerable appearance of earnestness —
" She is really very charming ; I have scarcely known any
one more graceful"
" I like to hear you say that. The better you like her, the
better for me."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 103
" I like her very much. She is all you said, and into the
bargain she is capable of great devotion. She has only one
" What is that 1 "
" She has too many ideas."
" I warned you she was clever."
" Fortunately they are very bad ones," said Osmond.
" Why is that fortunate 1 "
" Damey if they must be sacrificed ! "
Madame Merle leaned back, looking straight before her ; then
she spoke to the coachman. But Osmond again detained her.
" If I go to Eome, what shall I do with Pansy ? "
*' I will go and see her," said Madame Merle.
104 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
I SHALL not undertake to give an account of Isabel's impres-
sions of Eome, to analyse her feelings as she trod the ancient
pavement of the Forum, or to number her pulsations as she
crossed the threshold of St. Peter's. It is enough to say that
her perception of the endless interest of the place was such as
might have been expected in a young woman of her intelligence
and culture. She had always been fond of history, and here
was history in the stones of the street and the atoms of the
sunshine. She had an imagination that kindled at the mention
of great deeds, and wherever she turned some great deed had
been acted. These things excited her, but she was quietly
excited. It seemed to her companions that she spoke less than
usual, and Kalph Touchett, when he appeared to be looking
listlessly and awkwardly over her head, was really dropping an
eye of observation upon her. To her own knowledge she was
very happy ; she would even have been willing to believe that
these were to be on the whole the happiest hours of her life.
The sense of the mighty human past was heavy upon her, but
it was interfused in the strangest, suddenest, most capricious
way, with the fresh, cool breath of the future. Her feelings
were so mingled that she scarcely knew whither any of them
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 105
would lead her, and she went about in a kind of repressed
ecstasy of contemplation, seeing often in the things she looked
at a greal deal more than was there, and yet not seeing many of
the items enumerated in " Murray." Eome, as Ralph said, was in
capital condition. The herd of re-echoing tourists had departed,
and most of the solemn places had relapsed into solemnity.
The sky was a blaze of blue, and the plash of the fountains,
in their mossy niches, had lost its chill and doubled its music.
On the corners of the warm, bright streets one stumbled upon
bundles of flowers.
Our friends had gone one afternoon — ^it was the third of their
stay — to look at the latest excavations in the Forum; these
labours having been for some time previous largely extended.
They had gone down from the modem street to the level of the
Sacred Way, along which they wandered with a reverence of
step which was not the same on the part of each. Henrietta
Stackpole was struck with the fact that ancient Rome had been
paved a good deal like New York, and even found an analogy
between the deep chariot-ruts which are traceable in the antique
street, and the iron grooves which mark the course of the
American horse-car. The sun had begun to sink, the air was
filled with a golden haze, and the long shadows of broken
column and formless pedestal were thrown across the field of
ruin. Henrietta wandered away with Mr. Bantling, in whose
Latin reminiscences she was apparently much engrossed, and
Ralph addressed such elucidations as he was prepared to offer,
to the attentive ear of our heroine. One of the humble
archaeologists who hover about the place had put himself at the
disposal of the two, and repeated his lesson with a fluency which
the decline of the season had done nothing to impair. A process
of digging was going on in a remote corner of the Forum, and he
106 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
presently remarked that if it should please the dgnori to go and
watch it a little, they might see something interesting. The
proposal commended itself more to Ealph than to Isabel, who
was weary with much wandering; so that she charged her
companion to satisfy his curiosity while she patiently awaited
his return. The hour and the place were much to her taste,
and she should enjoy being alone. Ralph accordingly went off
with the cicerone, while Isabel sat down on a prostrate column,
near the foundations of the Capitol. She desired a quarter of
an hour's solitude, but she was not long to enjoy it. Keen as
was her interest in the rugged relics of the Roman past that lay
scattered around her, and in which the corrosion of centuries
had still left so much of individual life, her thoughts, after
resting a while on these things, had wandered, by a concaten-
ation of stages it might require some subtlety to trace, to regions
and objects more contemporaneous. From the Roman past to
Isabel Archer's future was a long stride, but her imagination
had taken it in a single flight, and now hovered in slow circles
over the nearer and richer field. She was so absorbed in her
thoughts, as she bent her eyes upon a row of cracked but not
dislocated slabs covering the ground at her feet, that she had
not heard the sound of approaching footsteps before a shadow
was thrown across the line of her vision. She looked up and
saw a gentleman — ^a gentleman who was not Ralph come back
to say that the excavations were a bore. This personage was
startled as she was startled; he stood there, smiling a little,
blushing a*good deal, and raising his hat.
" Lord Warburton ! " Isabel exclaimed, getting up.
" I had no idea it was you," he said. " I turned that comer
and came upon you."
Isabel looked about her.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 107
" I am alone, but my companions have just left me. My
cousin is gone to look at the digging over there."
"Ah yes; I see." And Lord Warburton's eyes wandered
vaguely in the direction Isabel had indicated. He stood firmly
before her ; he had stopped smiling ; he folded his arms with a
kind of deliberation. " Don't let me disturb you," .he went on,
looking at her dejected pillar. " I am afraid you are tired."
"Yes, I am rather tired." She hesitated a moment, and
then she sat down. " But don't let me interrupt you," she
" Oh dear, I am quite alone, I have nothing on earth to do.
I had no idea you were in Rome. I have just come from the
East. I am only passing through."
"You have been making a long journey," said Isabel, who
had learned from Ealph that Lord Warburton was absent from
" Yes, I came abroad for six months — soon after I saw you
last. I have been in Turkey and Asia Minor ; I came the other
day from Athens." He spoke with visible embarrassment ; this
unexpected meeting caused him an emotion he was unable to
conceal. He looked at Isabel a moment, and then he said,
abruptly — " Do you wish me to leave you, or will you let me
stay a little?"
She looked up at him, gently. " I don't wish you to leave
me. Lord Warburton; I am very glad to see you."
" Thank you for saying that. May I sit down ? "
The fluted shaft on which Isabel had taken her seat would
have afforded a resting-place to several persons, and there was
plenty of room even for a highly-developed Englishman. This
fine specimen of that great class seated himself near our young
lady, and^in the course of five minutes he had asked her several
108 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
questions, taken rather at random, and of which, as he asked
some of them twice over, he apparently did not always heed the
answer; had given her, too, some information about himself
which was not wasted upon her calmer feminine sense. Lord
Warburton, though he tried hard to seem easy, was agitated ;
he repeated more than once that he had not expected to meet
her, and it was evident that the encounter touched him in a
way that would have made preparation advisable. He had
abrupt alternations of gaiety and gravity ; he appeared at one
moment to seek his neighbour's eye and at the next to avoid
it. He was splendidly sunburnt ; even his multitudinous beard
seemed to have been burnished by the fire of Asia. He was
dressed in the loose-fitting, heterogeneous garments in which the
English traveller in foreign lands is wont to consult his comfort
and affirm his nationality; and with his clear grey eye, his
bronzed complexion, fresh beneath its brownness, his manly
figure, his modest manner, and his general air of being a gentle-
man and an explorer, he was such a representative of the
British race as need not in any clime have been disavowed by
those who have a kindness for it. Isabel noted these things,
and was glad she had always liked Lord Warburton. He was
evidently as likeable as before, and the tone of his voice, which
she had formerly thought delightful, was as good as an assurance
that he would never change for the worse. They talked about
the matters that were naturally in order; her uncle's death,
Ralph's state of health, the way she had passed her winter, her
visit to Rome, her return to Florence, her plans for the summer,
the hotel she was staying at ; and then Lord Warburton's own
adventures, movements, intentions, impressions and present
domicile. At last there was a silence, and she knew what he
was thinking o£ His eyes were fixed on the ground; but at
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 109
last he raised them and said gravely — **I have written to you
" Written to me ? I have never got your letters."
" I never sent them. I burned them up."
" Ah," said Isabel with a laugh, " it was better that you
should do that than I ! "
" I thought you wouldn't care about them," he went on, with
a simplicity that might have touched her. " It seemed to me
that after all I had no right to trouble you with letters."
" I should have been very glad to have news of you. You
know that I hoped that — that — " Isabel stopped ; it seemed to
her there would be a certain flatness in the utterance of her
" I know what you are going to say. You hoped we should
always remain good friends." This formula, as Lord Warburton
uttered it, was certainly flat enough ; but then he was interested
in making it appear so.
Isabel found herself reduced simply to saying — " Please don't
talk of all that;" a speech which hardly seemed to her an
improvement on the other.
" It's a small consolation to allow me ! " Lord Warburton
exclaimed, with force.
" I can't pretend to console you," said the girl, who, as she
sat there, found it good to think that she had given him the
answer that had satisfied him so little six months before. He
was pleasant, he was powerful, he was gallant, there was no
better man than he. But her answer remained.
" It's very well you don't try to console me ; it would not be
, in your power," she heard him say, through the medium of her
" I hoped we should meet again, because I had no fear you
110 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
would attempt to make me feel I had wroDged you. But when
you do that — the pain is greater than the pleasure." And
Isabel got up, looking for her companions.
** I don't want to make you feel that ; of course I can't say
that. I only just want you to know one or two things, in
fairness to myself as it were. I won't return to the subject
again. I felt very strongly what I expressed to you last year ;
I couldn't think of anything else. I tried to forget — energetic-
ally, systematically. I tried to take an interest in some one else.
I tell you this because I want you to know I did my duty. I
didn't succeed. It was for the same purpose I went abroad — as
far away as possible. They say travelling distracts the mind ;
but it didn't distract mine. I have thought of you perpetually,
ever since I last saw you. I am exactly the same. I love you
just as much, and everything I said to you then is just as true.
However, I don't mean to trouble you now ; it's only for a
moment. I may add that when I came upon you a moment
since, without the smallest idea of seeing you, I was in the very
act of wishing I knew where you were."
He had recovered his self-control, as I say, and while he spoke
it became complete. He spoke plainly and simply, in a low
tone of voice, in a matter-of-fact way. There might have been
something impressive, even to a woman of less imagination than
the one he addressed, in hearing this brilliant, brave-looking
gentleman express himself so modestly and reasonably.
** I have often thought of you. Lord Warburton," Isabel
answered. "You may be sure I shall always do that." And
then she added, with a smile — " There is no harm in that, on
They walked along together, and she asked kindly about his
sisters and requested him to let them know she had done so. He
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. Ill
said nothing more about his own feelings, "but returned to those
more objective topics they had already touched upon. Presently
he asked her when she was to leave Eome, and on her mention-
ing the limit of her stay, declared he was glad it was still so
" Why do you say that, if you yourself are only passing
through ] " she inquired, with some anxiety.
" Ah, when I said I was passing through, I didn't mean that
one would treat Eome as if it were Clapham Junction. To pass
through Rome is to stop a week or two."
" Say frankly that you mean to stay as long as I do ! "
Lord. Warburton looked at her a moment, with an uncomfort-
able smile. " You won't like that. You are afraid you will see
too much of me."
" It doesn't matter what I like. I certainly can't expect you
to leave this delightful place on my account. But I confess I
am afraid of you."
" Afraid I will begin again 1 I promise to be very careful."
They had gradually stopped, and they stood a moment face to
face. " Poor Lord Warburton ! " said Isabel, with a melancholy
" Poor Lord Warburton, indeed ! But I will be careful."
" You may be unhappy, but you shall not make me so. That
I can't allow."
" If I believed I could make you unhappy, I think I should
try it." At this she walked in advance, and he also proceeded.
" I will never say a word to displease you," he promised, very
" Yery good. If you do, our friendship's at an end."
" Perhaps some day — ^after a while — you will give me leave,"
112 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Give you leave — to make me unhappy 1 "
He hesitated. " To tell you again — " But he checked him-
self. " I will be silent," he said ; " silent always."
Ralph Touchett had heen joined, in his visit to the excavation,
hy Miss Stackpole and her attendant, and these three now
emerged from among the mounds of earth and stone collected
round the aperture, and came into sight of Isabel and her com-
panion. Ralph Touchett gave signs of greeting to Lord War-
burton, and Henrietta exclaimed in a high voice, " Gracious,
there's that lord ! " Ralph and his friend met each other with
undemonstrative cordiality, and Miss Stackpole rested her large
intellectual gaze upon the sunburnt traveller.
" I don't suppose you remember me, sir," she soon remarked.
" Indeed I do remember you," said Lord Warburton. " I
asked you to come and see me, and you never came."
"I don't go everywhere I am asked," Miss Stackpole
" Ah well, I won't ask you again," said the master of Lock-
" If you do I will go ; so be sure ! "
Lord Warburton, for all his good-humour, seemed sure
enough. Mr. Bantling had stood by, without claiming a recog-
nition, but he now took occasion to nod to his lordship, who
answered him with a ffiendly " Oh, you here, Bantling 1 " and a
" Well," said Henrietta, " I didn't know you knew him ! "
" I guess you don't know every one I know," Mr. Bantling
** I thought that when an Englishman knew a lord he always
" Ah, I am afraid Bantling was ashamed of me," said Lord
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 113
Warburton, laughing. Isabel was glad to hear him laugh ; she
gave a little sigh of relief as they took their way homeward.
The next day was Sunday ; she spent her morning writing
two long letters — one to her sister Lily, the other to Madame
Merle ; but in neither of these epistles did she mention the fact
that a rejected suitor had threatened her with another appeal.
Of a Sunday afternoon all good Romans (and the best Romans
are often the northern barbarians) follow the custom of going to
hear vespers at St. Peter's ; and it had been agreed among our
friends that they would drive together to the great church.
After lunch, an hour before the carriage came, Lord Warburton
presented himself at the H6tel de Paris and paid a visit to the
two ladies, Ralph Touchett and Mr. Bantling having gone out
together. The visitor seemed to have wished to give Isabel an
example of his intention to keep the promise he had made her
the evening before ; he was both discreet and frank ; he made
not even a tacit appeal, but left it for her to judge what a mere
good friend he could be. He talked about his travels, about
Persia, about Turkey, and when Miss Stackpole asked him
whether it would " pay " for her to visit those countries, assured
her that they offered a great field to female enterprise. Isabel
did him justice, but she wondered what his purpose was, and
what he expected to gain even by behaving heroically. If he
expected to melt her by showing what a good fellow he was, he
might spare himself the trouble. She knew already he was a good
fellow, and nothing he could do would add to this conviction.
Moreover, his being in Rome at all made her vaguely uneasy.
^Nevertheless, when on bringing his call to a close, he said that
he too should be at St. Peter's and should look out for Isabel
and her friends, she was obliged to reply that it would be a
pleasure to see him again.
VOL. II. I
114 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
In the church, as she strolled over its tesselated acres, he was
the first person she encountered. She had not been one of the
superior tourists who are " disappointed " in St. Peter's and find
it smaller than its fame ; the first time she passed beneath the
huge leathern curtain that strains and bangs at the entrance —
the first time she found herself beneath the far-arching dome
and saw the light drizzle down through the air thickened with
incense and with the reflections of marble and gilt, of mosaic
and bronze, her conception of greatness received an extension.
After this it never lacked space to soar. She gazed and won-
dered, like a child or a peasant, and paid her silent tribute to
visible grandeur. Lord Warburton walked beside her and talked
of Saint Sophia of Constantinople ; she was afraid that he would
end by calling attention to his exemplary conduct. The service
had not yet begun, but at St. Peter's there is much to observe,
and as there is something almost profane in the vastness of the
place, which seems meant as much for physical as for spiritual
exercise, the different figures and groups, the mingled worship-
pers and spectators, may follow their various intentions without
mutual scandaL In that splendid immensity individual indis-
cretion carries but a short distance. Isabel and her companions ,
however, were guilty of none ; for though Henrietta was obliged
to declare that Michael Angelo's dome suffered by comparison
with that of the Capitol -at Washington, she addressed her pro-
test chiefly to Mr. Bantling's ear, and reserved it, in its more
accentuated form, for the columns of the Interviewer, Isabel
made the circuit of the church with Lord Warburton, and as
they drew near the choir on the left of the entrance the voices
of the Pope's singers were borne towards them over the heads
of the large number of persons clustered outside the doors.
They paused a while on the skirts of this crowd, composed in
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 116
equal measure of Eoman cockneys and inquisitiye strangers, and
while they stood there the sacred concert went forward. Ealph,
with Henrietta and Mr. Bantling, was apparently within, where
Isabel, above the heads of the dense group in front of her, saw
the afternoon light, silvered by clouds of incense that seemed to
mingle with the splendid chant, sloping through the embossed
recesses of high windows. After a while the singing stopped,
and then Lord Warburton seemed disposed to turn away again.
Isabel for a moment did the same ; whereupon she found herself
confronted with Gilbert Osmond, who appeared to have been
standing at a short distance behind her. He now approached,
with a formal salutation.
" So you decided to come 1 " she said, putting out her hand.
'* Yes, I came last night, and called this$ afternoon at your
hotel They told me you had come here, and I looked about
" The others are inside," said Isabel.
" I didn't come for the others," Gilbert Osmond murmured,
She turned away; Lord Warburton was looking at them;
perhaps he had heard this. Suddenly she remembered that it
was just what he had said to her the morning he came to Grar-
dencourt to ask her to marry him. Mr. Osmond's words had
brought the colour to her cheek, and this reminiscence had not
the effect of dispelling it. Isabel sought refuge from her slight
agitation in mentioning to each gentleman the name of the other,
and fortunately at this moment Mr. Bantling made his way out
of the choir, cleaving the crowd with British valour, and followed
by Miss Stackpole and Kalph Touchett. I say fortunately, but
this is perhaps a superficial view of the matter ; for on perceiv-
ing the gentleman from Florence, Ealph Touchett exhibited
116 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
symptoms of surprise which might not perhaps have seemed
flattering to Mr. Osmond. It must be added, however, that
these manifestations were momentary, and Ralph was presently
able to say to his cousin, with due jocularity, that she would
soon have all her friends about her. His greeting to Mr. Osmond
was apparently frank ; that is, the two men shook hands and
looked at each other. Miss Stackpole had met the new-comer
in Florence, but she had already found occasion to say to Isabel
that she liked him no better than her other admirers — than Mr.
Touchett, Lord Warburton, and little Mr. Rosier in Paris. " I
don't know what it is in you," she had been pleased to remark,
" but for a nice girl you do attract the most unpleasant people.
Mr. Goodwood is the only one I have any respect for, and he's
just the one you don't appreciate."
" What's your opinion of St. Peter's 1 " Mr. Osmond asked of
" It's very large and very bright," said the girl.
" It's too large ; it makes one feel like an atom."
" Is not that the right way to feel — ^in a church ? " Isabel
asked, with a faint but interested smile.
" I suppose it's the right way to feel everywhere, when one w
nobody. But I like it in a church as little as anywhere else."
" You ought indeed to be a Pope 1 " Isabel exclaimed, remem-
bering something he had said to her in Florence.
" Ah, I should have enjoyed that ! " said Gilbert Osmond.
Lord Warburton meanwhile had joined Ralph Touchett, and
the two strolled away together.
" Who is the gentleman speaking to Miss Archer] " his lord-
" His name is Gilbert Osmond — ^he lives in Florence," Ralph
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 117
" What is he besides ] "
" Nothing at all. Oh yes, he is an American ; hut one forgets
that ; he is so little of one."
" Has he known Miss Archer long 1 "
" No, about a fortnight."
" Does she like him ] "
" Yes, I think she does."
" Is he a good fellow ] "
Kalph hesitated a moment. " No, he's not," he said, at last.
" Why then does she like him ] " pursued Lord Warburton,
with noble naivete.
" Because she's a woman."
Lord Warburton was silent a moment. "There are other
men who are good fellows," he presently said, " and them — and
" And them she likes also ! " Ealph interrupted, smiling.
" Oh, if you mean she likes him in that way ! " And Lord
Warburton turned round again. As far as he was concerned,
however, the party was broken up. Isabel remained in con-
versation with the gentleman from Florence till they left the
church, and her English lover consoled himself by lending such
attention as he might to the strains which continued to proceed
from the choir.
118 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
On the morrow, in the evening, Lord "Warburton went again
to see his friends at their hotel, and at this establishment he
learned that they had gone to the opera. He drove to the
opera, with the idea of paying them a visit in their box, in
accordance with the time-honoured Italian custom ; and after
he had obtained his admittance — ^it was one of the secondary
theatres — ^looked about the large, bare, ill-lighted house. An
act had just terminated, and he was at liberty to pursue Ms
quest. After scanning two or three tiers of boxes, he perceived
in one of the largest of these receptacles a lady whom he easily
recognised. Miss Archer was seated facing the stage, and partly
screened by the curtain of the box; and beside her, leaning
back in his chair, was Mr. Gilbert Osmond. They appeared to
have the place to themselves, and Warburton supposed that
their companions had taken advantage of the entracte to enjoy
the relative coolness of the lobby. He stood a while watching
the interesting pair in the box, and asking himself whether he
should go up and interrupt their harmonious colloquy. At last
it became apparent that Isabel had seen him, and this accident
determined him. He took his way to the upper regions, and
on the staircase he met Ealph Touchett, slowly descending
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 119
with his hat in the attitude of ennui and his hands where they
" I saw you below a moment since, and was going down to
you. I feel lonely and want company," Ealph remarked.
" You have some that is very good that you have deserted."
" Do you mean my cousin] Oh, she has got a visitor and
doesn't want me. Then Miss Stackpole and Bantling have
gone out to a caf6 to eat an ice — ^Miss Stackpole delights in an
ice. I didn't think they wanted me either. The opera is very
bad ; the women look like laundresses and sing like peacocks.
I feel very low."
" You had better go home," Lord Warburton said, without
"And leave my young lady in this sad place? Ah no, I
must watch over her."
" She seems to have plenty of friends."
" Yes, that's why I must watch," said Ealph, with the same
" If she doesn't want you, it's probable she doesn't want me."
" No, you are different. Gro to the box and stay there while
I walk about."
Lord Warburton went to the box, where he received a very
gracious welcome from the more attractive of its occupants. He
exchanged greetings with Mr. Osmond, to whom he had been
introduced the day before, and who, after he came in, sat very
quietly, scarcely mingling in the somewhat disjointed talk in
which Lord Warburton engaged with Isabel. It seemed to the
latter gentleman that Miss Archer looked very pretty ; he even
thought she looked excited ; as she was, however, at all times
a keenly-glancing, quickly-moving, completely animated young
woman, he may have been mistaken on this point. Her talk
120 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
with him betrayed little agitation ; it expressed a kindness so
ingenious and deliberate as to indicate that she was in undis-
turbed possession of her faculties. Poor Lord Warburton had
moments of bewilderment. She had discouraged him, formally,
as much as a woman could ; what business had she then to have
such soft, reassuring tones in her voice ] The others came back ;
the bare, familiar, trivial opera began again. The box was large,
and there was room for Lord Warburton to remain if he would
sit a little behind, in the dark. He did so for half-an-hour,
while Mr. Osmond sat in front, leaning forward, with his elbows
on his knees, just behind Isabel Lord Warburton heard nothing,
and from his gloomy comer saw nothing but the clear profile
of this young lady, defined against the dim illumination of the
house. When there was another interval no one moved. Mr.
Osmond talked to Isabel, and Lord Warburton remained in his
comer. He did so but for a short time, however ; after which
he got up and bade good night to the ladies. Isabel said nothing
to detain him, and then he was puzzled again. Why had she
so sweet a voice — such a friendly accent 1 He was angry with
himself for being puzzled, and then angry for being angry.
Verdi's musi<3 did little to comfort him, and he left the theatre
and walked homeward, without knowing his way, through the
tortuous, tragical streets of Rome, where heavier sorrows than
his had been carried under the stars.
"What is the character of that gentleman 1" Osmond asked
of Isabel, after the visitor had gone.
" Irreproachable — don't you see it ] "
" He owns about half England; that's his character," Henrietta
remarked. " That's what they call a free country ! "
" Ah, he is a great proprietor 1 Happy man ! " said Gilbert
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 121
"Do you call that happiness — the ownership of human
beings 1 " cried Miss Stackpole. " He owns his tenants, and he
has thousands of them. It is pleasant to own something, but
inanimate objects are enough for me. I don't insist on flesh
and blood, and minds and consciences."
" It seems to me you own a human being or two," Mr.
Bantling suggested jocosely. " I wonder if Warburton orders
his tenants about as you do me."
" Lord Warburton is a great radical," Isabel said. " He has
very advanced opinions."
" He has very advanced stone walls. His park is in-
closed by a gigantic iron fence, some thirty miles round,"
Henrietta announced, for the information of Mr. Osmond.
" I should like him to converse with a few of our Boston
" Don't they approve of iron fences 1 " asked Mr. Bantling.
" Only to shut up wicked conservatives. I always feel as if
I were talking to you over a fence ! "
"Do you know him well, this unreformed reformer]"
Osmond went on, questioning Isabel.
" WeU enough."
"Do you like him 1"
" Very much."
" Is he a man of ability ] "
" Of excellent ability, and as good as he looks.'*
"As good as he is good-looking do you meani He is very
good-looking. How detestably fortunate ! to be a great English
magnate, to be clever and handsome into the bargain, and, by
way of finishing oflf, to enjoy your favour ! That's a man I
Isabel gave a serious smile.
122 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" You seem to me to be always envying some one. Yesterday
it was the Pope ; to-day it's poor Lord Warburton."
" My envy is not dangeious ; it is very platonic. Why do
you call him poor 1 "
" Women usually pity men after they have hurt them ; that
is their great way of showing kindness," said Ealph, joining' in
the conversation for the first time, with a cynicism so trans-
parently ingenious as to be virtually innocent.
"Pray, have I hurt Lord Warburtoni" Isabel asked, raising
her eyebrows, as if the idea were perfectly noveL
"It serves him right if you have," said Henrietta, while the
curtain rose for the ballet.
Isabel saw no more of her attributive victim for the next
twenty-four hours, but on the second day after the visit to the
opera she encountered him in the gallery of the Capitol, where
he was standing before the lion of the collection, the statue of
the Dying Gladiator. She had come in with her companions,
among whom, on this occasion again, Gilbert Osmond was
numbered, and the party, having ascended the staircase, entered
the <first and finest of the rooms. Lord Warburton spoke to her
with all his usual geniality, but said in a moment that he was
leaving the gallery.
"And I am leaving Kome," he added. "I should bid you
I shall not undertake to explain why, but Isabel was sorry to
hear it. It was, perhaps, because she had ceased to be afraid
of his renewing his suit ; she was thinking of something else.
She was on the point of saying she was sorry, but she checked
herself and simply wished him a happy journey.
He looked at her with a somewhat heavy eye.
" I am afraid you think me rather inconsistent," he said. " I
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 123
told you the other day that I wanted so much to stay a
" Oh no ; you could easily change your mind."
« That's what I have done."
" Bon voyage, then."
" You're in a great hurry to get rid of me," said his lordship,
" Not in the least. But I hate partings."
" You don't care what I do," he went on pitifully.
Isabel looked at him for a moment.
" Ah," she said, " you are not keeping your promise 1 "
He coloured like a boy of fifteen.
"If I am not, then it's because I can't ; and that's why I am
" Good-bye, then."
"Good-bye." He lingered still, however. "When shall I
see you again 1 "
Isabel hesitated, and then, as if she had had a happy inspira-
tion — " Some day after you are married."
" That will never be. It will be after you are."
" That will do as well," said Isabel, smiling.
" Yes, quite as well. Good-bye."
They shook hands, and he left her alone in the beautiful
room, among the shining antique marbles. She sat down in the
middle of the circle of statues, looking at them vaguely, resting
her eyes on their beautiful blank faces ; listening, as it were, to
their eternal silence. It is impossible, in Eome at least, to look
long at a great company of Greek sculptures without feeling the
effect of their noble quietude. It soothes and moderates the
spirit, it purifies the imagination. I say in Eome especially,
because the Roman air is an exquisite medium for such im-
124 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
pressions. The golden sunshine mingles with them, the great
stillness of the past, so vivid yet, though it is nothing but a
void full of names, seems to throw a solemn spell upon them.
The blinds were partly closed in the windows of the Capitol,
and a clear, warm shadow rested on the figures and made them
more perfectly human. Isabel sat there a long time, under the
charm of their motionless grace, seeing life between their gazing
eyelids and purpose in their marble lips. The dark red walls
of the room threw them into relief ; the polished marble floor
reflected their beauty. She had seen them all before, but her
enjoyment repeated itself, and it was all the greater because she
was glad, for the time, to be alone. At the last her thoughts
wandered away from them, solicited by images of a vitality
more complete. An occasional tourist came into the room,
stopped and stared a moment at the Dying Gladiator, and then
passed out of the other door, creaking over the smooth pave-
ment. At the end of half-an-hour Gilbert Osmond reappeared,
apparently in advance of his companions. He strolled towards
her slowly, with his hands behind him, and with his usual
bright, inquiimg. yet not appealing smile.
"I am surprised to fijid you alone," he said. "I thought
you had company."
" So I have — the best." And Isabel glanced at the circle of
" Do you call this better company than an English peerl "
" Ah, my English peer left me some time ago," said Isabel,
getting up. She spoke, with intention, a little dryly.
Mr. Osmond noted her dryness, but it did not prevent him
from giving a laugh.
"I am afraid that what I heard the other evening is true ;
you are rather cruel to that nobleman."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 125
Isabel looked a moment at the vanquished Gladiator.
" It is not true. I am scrupulously kind."
" That's exactly what I mean 1 " Gilbert Osmond exclaimed,
so humorously that his joke needs to be explained.
We knew that he was fond of originals, of rarities, of the
superior, the exquisite ; and now that he had seen Lord War-
burton, whom he thought a very fine example of his race and
order, he perceived a new attraction in the idea of taking to
himself a young lady who had qualified herself to figure in his
collection of choice objects by rejecting the splendid offer of a
British aristocrat. Gilbert Osmond had a high appreciation of
the British aristocracy — ^he had never forgiven Providence for
not making him an English duke — and could measure the unex-
pectedness of this conduct. It would be proper that the woman
he should marry should have done something of that sort.
126 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Kalph Touohbtt, for reasons best known to himself, had
seen fit to say that Gilbert Osmond was not a good fellow ; but
this assertion was not borne out by the gentleman's conduct
during the rest of the visit to Eome. He spent a portion of
each day with Isabel and her companions, and gave every
indication of being an easy man to live with. It was impossible
not to feel that he had excellent points, and indeed this is per-
haps why Ealph Touchett made his want of good fellowship a
reproach to him. Even Ealph was obliged to admit that just
now he was a delightful companion. His good humour was
imperturbable, his knowledge universal, his manners were the
gentlest in the world. His spirits were not visibly high ; it was
difficult to think of Gilbert Osmond as boisterous ; he had a
mortal dislike to loudness or eagerness. He thought Miss
Archer sometimes too eager, too pronounced. It was a pity she
had that fault ; because if she had not had it she would really
have had none ; she would have been as bright and soft as an
April cloud. If Osmond was not loud, however, he was deep,
and during these closing days of the Eoman May he had a gaiety
that matched with slow irregular walks under the pines of the
Villa Borghese, among the small sweet meadow-flowers and the
mossy marbles. He was pleased with everything ; he had
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. ? 127
never before been pleased with so many things at once. Old
impressions, old enjoyments, renewed themselves ; one evening,
going home to his room at the inn, he wrote down a little
sonnet to which he prefixed the title of " Eome Eevisited." A
day or two later he showed this piece of correct and ingenious
verse to Isabel, explaining to her that it was an Italian fashion
to commemorate the pleasant occasions of life by a tribute to
the muse. In general Osmond took his pleasures singly; he
was usually disgusted with something that seemed to him ugly
or offensive ; his mind was rarely visited with moods of com-
prehensive satisfaction. But at present he was happy — happier
than he had perhaps ever been in his life ; and the feeling had
a large foundation. This was simply the sense of success — ^the
most agreeable emotion of the human heart. Osmond had never
had too much of it ; in this respect he had never been spoiled ;
as he knew perfectly well and often reminded himself. "Ah
no, I have not been spoiled; certainly I have not been spoiled,"
he used to repeat to himself. "If I do succeed before I die, I
shaU have earned it weU." Absolutely void of success his career
had not been ; a very moderate amount of reflection would have
assured him of this. But his triumphs were, some of them,
now, too old ; others had been too easy. The present one had
been less difficult than might have been expected ; but it had
been easy — ^that is, it had been rapid — only because he had
made an altogether exceptional effort, a greater effort than he
had believed it was in him to make. The desire to succeed
greatly — ^in something or other — had been the dream of his
youth; but as the years went on, the conditions attached to
success became so various and repulsive that the idea of making
an effort gradually lost its charm. It was not dead, however ;
it only slept ; it revived after he had made the acquaintance of
128 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Isabel Archer. Osmond had felt that any enterprise in which
the chance of failure was at all considerable would never have
an attraction for him ; to fail would have been unspeakably
odious, would have left an ineffaceable stain upon his life.
Success was to seem in advance definitely certain — certain, that
is, on this one condition, that the effort should be an agreeable
one to make. That of exciting an interest on the part of Isabel
Archer corresponded to this description, for the girl had pleased
hJTTi from the first of his seeing her. We have seen that she
thought him " fine"; and Gilbert Osmond returned the compli-
ment. "We have also seen (or heard) that he had a great dread
of vulgarity, and on this score his mind was at rest with regard
to our young lady. He was not afraid that she would disgust
him or irritate him ; he had no fear that she would even, in the
more special sense of the word, displease him. If she was too
eager, she could be taught to be less so ; that was a fault which
diminished with growing knowledge. She might defy him, she
might anger him ; this was another matter from displeasing
him, and on the whole a less serious one. If a woman were
ungraceful and common, her whole quality was vitiated, and
one could take no precautions against that ; one*s own delicacy
would avail little. If, however, she were only wilful and high-
tempered, the defect might be managed with comparative ease ;
for had one not a will of one's own that one had .been keeping
for years in the best condition — ^as pure and keen as a sword
protected by its sheath 1
Though I have tried to speak with extreme discretion, the
reader may .have gathered a suspicion that Gilbert Osmond was
not untainted by selfishness. This is rather a coarse imputation
to put upon a man of his refinement ; and it behoves us at all
times to remember the familiar proverb about those who live in
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 129
glass houses. If Mr. Osmond was more selfish than most of his
fellows, the fact will still establish itself. Lest it should fail to
do so, I must decline to commit myself to an accusation so gross;
the more especially as several of the items of our story would
seem to point the other way. It is well known that there are
few indications of selfishness more conclusive (on the part of a
gentleman at least) than the preference for a single life. Gilbert
Osmond, after having tasted of matrimony, had spent a succession
of years in the full enjoyment of recovered singleness. He was
familiar with the simplicity of purpose, the lonely liberties, of
bachelorhood. He had reached that period of life when it is
supposed to be doubly difficult to renounce these liberties,
endeared as they are by long association ; and yet he was pre-
pared to make the generous sacrifice. It would seem that this
might fairly be set down fco the credit of the noblest of our
qualities — the faculty of self-devotion. Certain it is that
Osmond's desire to marry had been deep and distinct. It had
not been notorious ; he had not gone about asking people whether
they knew a nice girl with a little money. Money was an
object ; but this was not his manner of proceeding, and no one
knew — or even greatly cared — ^whether he wished to marry or not.
Madame Merle knew — ^that we have already perceived. It was
not that he had told her ; on the whole he would not have cared
to teU her. But there were things of which she had no need to
be told — things as to which she had a sort of creative intuition.
She had recognised a truth that was none the less pertinent for
being very subtle : the truth that there was something very
imperfect in Osmond's situation as it stood. He was a failure,
of course; that was an old story; to Madame Merle's percep-
tion he would always be a failure. But there were degrees of
ineffectiveness, and there was no need of taking one of the
VOL. II. K
180 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
■ - — — * —
highest. Success, for Gilbert Osmond, would be to make himself
felt ; that was the only success to which he could now pretend.
It is not a kind of distinction that is ofl&cially recognised —
unless indeed the operation be performed upon multitudes of
men. Osmond's line would be to impress himself not largely
but deeply; a distinction of the most private sort. A single
character might offer the whole measure of it ; the clear and
sensitive nature of a generous girl would make space for the
record. The record of course would be complete if the young
lady should have a fortune, and Madame Merle would have
taken no pains to make Mr. Osmond acquainted with Mrs.
Touchett's niece if Isabel had been as scantily dowered as 'when
first she met her. He had waited all these years because he
wanted only the best, and a portionless bride naturally would
not have been the best. He had waited so long in vain that he
finally almost lost his interest in the subject — not having kept
it up by venturesome experiments. It had become improbable
that the best was now to be had, and if he wished to make
himself felt, there was soft and supple little Pansy, who would
evidently respond to the slightest pressure. When at last the
best did present itself Osmond recognised it like a gentleman.
There was therefore no incongruity in his wishing to many —
it was his own idea of success, as well as that which Madame
Merle, with her old-time interest in his affairs, entertained for
him. Let it not, however, be supposed that he was guilty of
the error of believing that Isabel's character was of that passive
sort which offers a free field for domination. He was sure
that she would constantly act — act in the sense of enthusiastic
Shortly before the time 'which had been fixed in advance for
her return to Florence, this young lady received from Mrs.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 131
Touchett a telegram whicli ran as follows : — " Leave Florence
4th June, Bellaggio, and take you if you have not other views.
But can't wait if you dawdle in Eome." The dawdling in Kome
was very pleasant, but Isabel had no other views, and she wrote
to her aunt that she would immediately join her. She told
Gilbert Osmond that she had done so, and he replied that, spend-
ing many of his summers as well eus his winters in Italy, he
himself would loiter a little longer among the Seven Hills. He
should not return to Florence for ten days more, and in that time
she would have started for Bellaggio. It might be long, in this
case, before he should see her again. This conversation took
place in the large decorated sitting-room which our friends
occupied at the hotel ; it was late in the evening, and Ealph
Touchett was to take his cousin back to Florence on the morrow.
Osmond had found the girl alone ; Miss Stackpole had con-
tracted a friendship with a delightful American family on the
fourth floor, and had mounted the interminable staircase to pay
them a visit. Miss Stackpole contracted friendships, in travel-
ling, with great freedom, and had formed several in railway-
carriages, which were among her most valued ties. Kalph was
making arrangements for the morrow's journey, and Isabel sat
alone in a wilderness of yellow upholstery. The chairs and sofas
were orange ; the walls and windows were draped in purple and
gilt. The mirrors, the pictures, had great flamboyant frames ;
the ceiling was deeply vaulted and painted over with naked
muses and cherubs. To Osmond the place was painfully ugly ;
the false colours, the sham splendour, made him suffer. Isabel
had taken in hand a volume of Ampere, presented, on their
arrival in Home, by Ealph ; but though she held it in her lap
with her finger vaguely kept in the place, she was not impatient
to go on with her reading. A lamp covered with a drooping
132 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
veil of pink tissue-paper burned on the table beside her, and
diffused a strange pale rosiness over the scene.
"You say you will come back; but who knows?"" Gilbert
Osmond said. " I think you are much more likely to start on
your voyage round the world. You are under no obligation to
come back ; you can do exactly what you choose ; you can roam
" Well, Italy is a part of space," Isabel answered ; " I can
take it on the way."
" On the way round the world 1 Ko, don't do that. Don't
put us into a parenthesis — give us a chapter to ourselves. I
don't want to see you on your travels. I would rather see you
when they are over. I should like to see you when you are
tired and satiated/' Osmond added, in a moment. *^ I shall
prefer you in that state."
Isabel, with her eyes bent down, fingered the pages of M.
Ampere a little.
"You turn things into ridicule without seeming to do it,
though not, I think, without intending it," she said at last.
** You have no respect for my travels — you think them
"Where do you find that?"
Isabel went on in the same tone, fretting the edge of her book
with the paper-knife.
"You see my ignorance, my blunders, the way I wander
about as if the world belonged to me, simply because — ^because
it has been put into my power to do so. You don't think a
woman ought to do that. You think it bold and ungraceful.'*
"I think it beautiful," said Osmond. "You know my
opinions — I have treated you to enough of them. Don't you
.remember my teUing you that one ought to make one's life a
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 133
work of art 1 You looked rather shocked at first ; but then I
told you that it was exactly what you seemed to me to be trying
to do with your own life."
Isabel looked up from her book.
" What you despise most in the world ia bad art."
** Possibly. But yours seem to me very good."
" If I were to go to Japan next winter, you would laugh at
me," Isabel continued.
Osmond gave a smile — a keen one, but not a laugh, for the
tone of their conversation was not jocular. Isabel was almost
tremulously serious ; he had seen her so before.
" You have an imagination that startles one ! "
"That is exactly what I say. You think such an idea
" I would give my little finger to go to Japan ; it is one of
the countries I want most to see. Can't you believe that, with
my taste for old lacquer 1 "
" I haven't a taste for old lacquer to excuse me,** said Isabel.
" You have a better excuse — the means of going. You are
quite wrong in your theory that I laugh at you. I don't know
what put it into your head."
"It wouldn't be remarkable if you did think it ridiculoud
that I should have the means to travel, when you have not ; for
you know everything, and I know nothing."
" The more reason why you should travel and learn," said
Osmond, smiling. " Besides," he added, more gravely, " I don't
Isabel was not struck with the oddity of his saying this
gravely ; she was thinking that the pleasantest incident of her
life — so it pleased her to qualify her little visit to Eome — was
coming to an end. That most of the interest of this episode
134 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
had been owing to Mr. Osmond — ^this reflection she was not just
now at pains to make ; she had ahready done the point abundant
justice. Bat she said to herself that if there were a danger that
they should not meet again, perhaps after all it would be as welL
Happy things do not repeat themselves, and these few days had
been interfused with the element of success. She might come
back to Italy and find him different — ^this strange man who
pleased her just as he was ; and it would be better not to come
than run the risk of that. But if she was not to come, the
greater was the pity that this happy week was over; for a
moment she felt her heart throb with a kind of delicious pain.
The sensation kept her silent, and Gilbert Osmond was silent
too ; he was looking at her.
" Go everywhere," he said at last, in a low, kind voice ;
"do everything; get everything out of life. Be happy — be
" What do you mean by being triumphant ? "
" Doing what you like."
" To triumph, then, it seems to me, is to fail ! Doing what
we like is often very tiresome."
" Exactly," said Osmond, with his quick responsiveness.
** As I intimated just now, you will be tired some day." He
paused a moment, and then he went on : '^ I don't know
whether I had better not wait till then for something I wish to
say to you."
" Ah, I can't advise you without knowing what it is. But I am
horrid when I am tired," Isabel added, with due inconsequence.
"I don't believe that. You are angry, sometimes — that I
can believe, though I have never seen it. But I am sure you
are never disagreeable."
" Not even when I lose my temper 1 "
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 135
" You don't lose it — ^you find it, and that must be beautiful."
Osmond spoke very simply — almost solemnly. " There must
be something very noble about that."
" If I could only find it now ! " the girl exclaimed, laughing,
" I am not afraid ; I should fold my arms and admire you.
I am speaking very seriously." He was leaning forward, with a
hand on each knee ; for some moments he bent his eyes on the
floor. " What I wish to say to you," he went on at last, looking
up, " is that I find I am in love with you."
Isabel instantly rose from her chair.
" Ah, keep that till I am tired ! " she murmured.
" Tired of hearing it from others 1 " And Osmond sat there,
looking up at her. " No, you may heed it now, or i;iever, as
you please. But, after all, I must say it now."
She had turned away, but in the movement she had stopped
herself and dropped her gaze upon him. The two remained a
moment in this situation, exchanging a long look — the large,
conscious look of the critical hours of life. Then he got up and
came near her, deeply respectful, as if he were afraid he had
been too familiar.
" I am thoroughly in love with you."
He repeated the announcement in a tone of almost impersonal
discretion ; like a man who expected very little from it, but
spoke for his own relief.
The tears came into Isabel's eyes — they were caused by an
intenser throb of that pleasant pain I spoke of a moment ago.
There was an immense sweetness in the words he had uttered ;
but, morally speaking, she retreated before them — ^facing him
stiU — as she had retreated in two or three cases that we know of
in which the same words had been spoken.
186 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
** Oh, don't 8ay that, please/' slie answered at last, in a tone
of entreaty which had nothing of conventional modesty, but
which expressed the dread of having, in this case too, to choose
and decide. What made her dread great was precisely the force
which, as it would seem, ought to have banished all dread — ^the
consciousness of what was in her own heart. It was terrible to
have to surrender herself to that.
"I haven't the idea thatjit will matter much to you," said
Osmond. " I have too little to offer you. What I have — it's
enough for me ; but it's not enough for you. I have neither
fortune, nor fame, nor extrinsic advantages of any kind. So I
offer nothing. I only tell you because I think it can't offend
you, and some day or other it may give you pleasure. It gives
me pleasure, I assure you," he went on, standing there before
her, bonding forward a little, turning his hat, which he had
iaken up, slowly round, with a movement which had all the
decent tremor of awkwardness and none of its oddity, and pre-
senting to her his keen, expressive, emphatic face. " It gives
me no pain, because it is perfectly simple. For me you will
always be the most important woman in the world."
Isabel looked at herself in this character — looked intently, and
thought that she filled it with a certain grace. But what she
said was not an expression of this complacency. " You don't
offend me; but you ought to remember that, without being
offended, one may be incommoded, troubled." " Incommoded":
she hoard herself saying that, and thought it a ridiculous word.
But it W8W the word that came to her.
**I remember, perfectly. Of course you are surprised and
startled. But if it is nothing but that, it will pass away. And
it will perhaps leave something that I may not be ashamed of."
" I don't know what it may leave. You see at all events that
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 137
I am. not overwhelmed," said Isabel, with rather a pale smUe.
*' I am not too troubled to think. And I think that I am glad
"we are separating — that I leave Rome to-morrow."
" Of course I don't agree with you there."
"I don't know you," said Isabel, abruptly; and then she
Coloured, as she beard herself saying what she had said almost a
year before to Lord Warburton.
" If you were not going away you would know me better."
" I shall do that some other time."
" I hope so. I am very easy to know."
" No, no," said the girl, with a flash of bright eagerness ;
" there you are not sincere. You are not easy to know ; no one
could be less so."
" Well," Osmond answered, with a laugh, " I said that because
I know myself. That may be a boast, but I do."
" Very likely ; but you are very wise."
" So are you. Miss Archer ! " Osmond exclaimed.
" I don't feel so just now. Still, I am wise enough to think
you had better go. Good night."
" God bless you ! " said Gilbert Osmond, taking the hand
which she failed to surrender to him. And then in a moment
he added, " If we meet again, you will find me as you leave me.
If we don't, I shall be so, aU the same."
" Thank you very much. Good-bye."
There was something quietly firm about Isabel's visitor ; he
might go of his own movement, but he would not be dismissed.
" There is one thing more," he said. " I haven't asked anything
of you — not even a thought in the future ; you must do me that
justice. But there is a little service I should like to ask. I
shall not return home for several days ; Eome is delightful, and
it is a good place for a man in my state of mind. Oh, I know
138 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
you are sorry to leave it ; but you are right to do what your
" She doesn't even wish it ! " Isabel broke out, strangely.
Osmond for a moment was apparently on the point of saying
something that would match these words. But he changed his
mind, and rejoined, simply — " Ah well, it's proper you should
go with her, all the same. Do everything that's proper ; I go
in for that. Excuse my being so patronising. You say you
don't know me ; but when you do you will discover what a
worship I have for propriety."
" You are not conventional 1 " said Isabel, very gravely.
" I like the way you utter that word ! Ko, I am not conven-
tional : I am convention itself. You don't understand that 1 '*
And Osmond paused a moment, smiling. "I should like to
explain it." Then, with a sudden, quick, bright naturalness —
" Do come back again ! " he cried. " There are so many things
we might talk about."
Isabel stood there with lowered eyes. " What service did
you speak of just now ? "
" Go and see my little daughter before you leave Florence.
She is alone at the villa ; I decided not to send her to my sister,
who hasn't my ideas. Tell her she must love her poor father
very much," said Gilbert Osmond, gently.
** It will be a great pleasure to me to go," Isabel answered.
" I will tell her what you say. Once more, good-bye."
On this he took a rapid, respectful leave. When he had
gone, she stood a moment, looking about her, and then she seated
herself, slowly, with an air of deliberation. She sat there till
her companions came back, with folded hands, gazing at the
ugly carpet. Her agitation — ^for it had not diminished — was
very stiU, very deep. That which had happened was something
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 189
that for a week past her imagination had been going forward
to meet; but here, when it came, she stopped — her imagina-
tion halted. The working of this young lady's spirit was
strange, and I can only give it to you as I see it, not hoping to
make it seem altogether natural. Her imagination stopped, as I
say ; there was a last vague space it could not cross — a dusky,
uncertain tract which looked ambiguous, and even slightly
treacherous, like a moorland seen in the winter twilight. But
she was to cross it yet.
140 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Under her cousin's escort Isabel returned on the morrow to
Florence, and Kalph Touchett, though usually he was not fond
of railway journeys, thought very weU of the successive hours
passed in the train which hurried his companion away from the
city now distinguished by Gilbert Osmond's preference — hours
that were to form the first stage in a still larger scheme of travel.
Miss Stackpole had remained behind ; she was planning a little
trip to Kaples, to be executed with Mr. Bantling's assistance.
Isabel was to have but three days in Florence before the 4th of
June, the date of Mrs. Touchett's departure, and she determined
to devote the last of these to her promise to go and see Pansy
Osmond. Her plan, however, seemed for a moment likely to
modify itselj^ in deference to a plan of Madame Merle's. This
lady was still at Casa Touchett ; but she too was on the point of
leaving Florence, her next station being an ancient castle in the
mountains of Tuscany, the residence of a noble family of that
country, whose acquaintance (she had known them, as she said,
" for ever ") seemed to Isabel, in the light of certain photographs
of their immense crenellated dwelling which her friend was able
to show her, a precious privilege.
She mentioned to Madame Merle that Mr. Osmond had asked
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 141
her to call upon his daughter ; she did not mention to her that
he had also made her a declaration of love.
'^ Ah, comme cela se trouve / " the elder lady exclaimed. " I
myself have heen thinking it would be a kindness to take a look
at the child before I go into the country."
" We can go together, then," said Isabel, reasonably. I say
" reasonably," because the proposal was not uttered in the spirit
of enthusiasm. She had prefigured her visit as made in solitude ;
she should like it better so. Nevertheless, to her great consider-
ation for Madame Merle «he was prepared to sacrifice this mystic
Her friend meditated, with her usual suggestive smile. "After
all," she presently said, " why should we both go ; having, each
of us, so much to do during these last hours ] "
" Very good ; I can easily go alone."
"I don't know about your going alone — ^to the house of a
handsome bachelor. He has been married — but so long
ago I "
Isabel stared. " When Mr. Osmond is away, what does it
matter 1 "
** They don't know he is away, you see."
" They ] Whom do you mean ? "
" Every one. But perhaps it doesn't matter."
*' If you were going, why shouldn't I ?" Isabel asked.
" Because I am an old frump, and you are a beautiful young
" Granting all that, you have not promised."
" How much you think of your promises ! " said Madame
Merle, with a smile of genial mockery.
" I think a great deal of my promises. Does that surprise
you ] "
142 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" You are right," Madame Merle reflected audibly. " I really
think you wish to be kind to the child."
" I wish very much to be kind to her."
" Go and see her, then j no one will be the wiser. And tell
her I would have come if you had not. — Or rather," Madame
Merle added — ** don't tell her ; she won't care."
As Isabel drove, in the publicity of an open vehicle, along the
charming winding way which led to Mr. Osmond's hill-top, she
wondered what Madame Merle had meant by no one being the
wiser. Once in a while, at large intervals, this lady, in whose
discretion, as a general thing, there was something almost brilliant^
dropped a remark of ambiguous quality, struck a note that
sounded false. What cared Isabel Archer for the vulgar judg-
ments of obscure people 'i and did Madame Merle suppose that
she was capable of doing a deed in secret ] Of course not — she
must have meant something else — something which in the press
of thcnhours that preceded her departure she had not had time
to explain. Isabel would return to this some day ; there were
certain things as to which she liked to be clear. She heard
Pansy strumming at the piano in another apartment, as she
herself was ushered into Mr. Osmond's drawing-room ; the little
girl was " practising," and Isabel was pleased to think that she
performed this duty faithfully. Presently Pansy came in,
smoothing down her frock, and did the honours of her father's
house with the wide-eyed conscientiousness of a sensitive child-
Isabel sat there for half-aii-hour, and Pansy entertained her like
a little lady — not chattering, but conversing, and showing the
same coui'teous interest in Isabel's affairs that Isabel was so good
as to take in hers. Isabel wondered at her ; as I have said
before, she had never seen a child like that. How well she had
been taught, said our keen young lady, how prettily she had
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 143
been directed and fashioned j and yet how simple, how natural,
how innocent she has been kept ! Isabel was fond of psycho-
logical problems, and it had pleased her, up to this time, to be
in doubt as to whether Miss Pansy were not all-knowing. Was
her infantine serenity but the perfection of self-consciousness ?
Was it put on to please her father's visitor, or was it the direct
expression of a little neat, orderly character? The hour that
Isabel spent in Mr. Osmond's beautiful empty, dusky rooms —
the windows had been half-darkened, to keep out the heat, and
here and there, through an easy crevice, the splendid summer
day peeped in, lighting a gleam of faded colour or tarnished gilt
in the rich-looking gloom — Isabel's interview with the daughter
of the house, I say, effectually settled this question. Pansy was
really a blank page, a pure white surface ; she was not clever
enough for precocious coquetries. She was not clever ; Isabel
could see that ; she only had nice feelings. There was some-
thing touching about her ; Isabel had felt it before 3 she would
be an easy victim of fate. She would have no will, no power to
resist, no sense of her own importance ; only an exquisite taste,
and an appreciation, equally exquisite, of such affection as might
be bestowed upon her. She would easily be mystified, easily
crushed ; her force would be solely in her power to cling. She
moved about the place with Isabel, who had asked leave to walk
through the other rooms again, where Pansy gave her judgment
on several works of art. She talked about her prospects, her
occupations, her father's intentions ; she was not egotistical, but
she felt the propriety of giving Isabel the information that so
observant a visitor would naturally expect.
" Please tell me," she said, " did papa, in Eome, go to see
Madame Catherine? He told me he would if he had time.
Perhaps he had not time. Papa likes a great deal of time. He
144 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
wished to speak about my education ; it isn't finished yet, you
know. I don't know what they can do with me more ; but it
appears it is far from finished. Papa told me one day lie
thought he would finish it himself; for the last year or two, at
the convent, the masters that teach the tall girls are so very
dear. Papa is not rich, and I should be very sorry if he were
to pay much money for me, because I don't think I am worth
it. I don't learn quickly enough, and I have got no memory.
For what I am told, yes — especially when it is pleasant ; but
not for what I learn in a book. There was a young girl, who
was my best friend, and they took her away from the convent
when she was fourteen, to make — ^how do you say it in English %
' — to make a dot You don't say it in English 1 I hope it isn't
wrong ; I only mean they wished to keep the money, to marry
her. I don't know whether it is for that that papa wishes to keep
the money, to marry me. It costs so much to marry ! " Pansy
went on, with a sigh ; " I think papa might make that economy.
At any rate I am too young to think about it yet, and I don't
care for any gentleman ; I mean for any but him. If he were not
my papa I should like to marry him ; I would rather be his
daughter than the wife of — of some strange person. I miss him
very much, but not so much as you might think, for I have been
so much away from him. Papa has always been principally
for holidays. I miss Madame Catherine almost more ; but you
must not tell him that. You shall not see him again 1 I am
very sorry for that. Of every one who comes here I like you
the best. That is not a great compliment, for there are not
many people. It was very kind of you to come to-day — so far
from your house ; for I am as yet only a child. Oh, yes, I have
only the occupations of a child. When did you give them up,
the occupations of a child ? I should like to know how old you
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 145
are, but I don't know whether it is right to ask. At the convent
they told us that we must never ask the age. I don't like to do
anything that is not expected ; it looks as if one had not been
properly taught. I myself — I should never like to be taken by
surprise. Papa left directions for everything. I go to bed very
early. When the sun goes off that side I go into the garden*
Papa left strict orders that I was not to get scorched. I always
enjoy the view j the mountains are so graceful In Eome, from
the convent, we saw nothing but roofs and bell-towers. I
practise three hours. I do not play very well. You play your-
self ] I wish very much that you would play something for
me ; papa wishes very much that I should hear good music
^ladame Merle has played for me several times ; that is what I
like best about Madame Merle ; she has great facility. I shall
never have facility* And I have no voice — just a little thread."
Isabel, gratified this respectful wish, drew off her gloves, and
sat down to the piano, while Pansy, standing beside her, watched
her white hands move quickly over the keys. When she stopped,
she kissed the child good-bye, and held her a moment, looking
" Be a good child," she said ; " give pleasure to your father."
" I think that is what I live for," Pansy answered. " He
has not much pleasure ; he is rather a sad man."
Isabel listened to this assertion with an interest which she
felt it to be almost ♦a torment that she was obliged to conceal
from the child. It was her pride that obliged her, and a certain
sense of decency; there were still other things in her head
which she felt a strong impulse, instantly checked, to say to
Pansy about her father ; there were things it would have given
her pleasure to hear the child, to make the child, say. But she
no sooner became conscious of these things than her imagination
VOL. n. L
14« THE PORTRJUT OF A LADY.
was bnsbed with honor at the idea of taking advantage of the
little girl — ^it was of this she wonld have accused heiself — and
of leaving an audible trace of her emotion behind. She had
come — she had come ; bat she had staved only an hour ! She
rose qoicklj from the mosic-stool; even then, however, she
lingered a moment, still holding her small companion, drawing
the child's little tender person closer, and looking down at her.
She was obliged to confess it to herself — she would have taken
a passionate pleasure in talking about Gilbert Osmond to this
innocent, diminutive creature who was near to him. Bat she
said not another word ; she only kissed Pansy once more. They
went together through the vestibule, to the door which opened
into the court; and there P^msy stopped, looking rather
" I may go no further," she said. *' I have promised papa
not to go out of this door."
" You are right to obey hiTn ; he will never ask you anything
" I shall always obey him. But whe^i will you come again ? "
" Not for a long time, I am afraid."
" As soon as you can, I hope. I am only a little girl,'* said
Pansy, *' but I shall always expect you."
And the small figure stood in the high, dark doorway, watch-
ing Isabel cross the clear, grey court, and disappear into the
brightness beyond the big portone^ which gave a wider gleam as
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 147
Isabel came back to Florence, but only after several months;
an interval sufficiently replete with incident. It is not, however,
during this interval that we are closely concerned with her ; our
attention is engaged again on a certain day in the late spring-
time, shortly after her return to the Palazzo Crescentini, and a
year from the date of the incidents I have just narrated. She
was alone on this occasion, in one of the smaller of the numerous
rooms devoted by Mrs. Touchett to social uses, and there was
that in her expression and attitude which would have suggested
that she was expecting a visitor. The tall window was open,
and though its green shutters were partly drawn, the bright air
of the garden had come in through a broad interstice and filled
the room with warmth and perfume. Our young lady -stood
for some time at the window, with her hands clasped behind
her, gazing into the brilliant aperture in the manner of a person
relapsing into reverie. She was pre-occupied ; she was too rest-
less to sit down, to work, to read. It was evidently not her
design, however, to catch a glimpse of her visitor before he
should pass into the house j for the entrance to the palace was
not through the garden, in which stillness and privacy always
reigned. She was endeavouring rather to anticipate his arrival
by a process of conjecture, and to judge by the expression of her
face this attempt gave her plenty to do. She was extremely
148 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
grave ; not sad exactly, but deeply serious. The lapse of a year
may doubtless account for a considerable increase of gravity ;
tbough this will depend a good deal upon the manner in which
the year has been spent. Isabel had spent hers in seeing the
world ; she had moved about ; she had travelled ; she had
exerted herself with an almost passionate activity. She was now,
to her own sense, a very different person from the frivolous
young woman from Albany who had begun to see Europe upon
the lawn at Gardencourt a couple of years before. She flattered
herself that she had gathered a rich experience, that she knew
a great deal more of life than this light-minded creature had
even suspected. If her thoughts just now had inclined them-
selves to retrospect, instead of fluttering their wings nervously
about the present, they would have evoked a multitude of inter-
esting pictures. These pictures would have been both landscapes
and figure-pieces ; the latter, however, would have been the more
numerous. With several of the figures concerned in these
combinations we are already acquainted. There would be, for
instance, the conciliatory Lily, our heroine's sister and Edmund
Ludlow's wife, who came out from New York to spend five
months with Isabel. She left her husband behind her, but she
brought her children, to whom Isabel now played with equal
munificence and tenderness the part of maiden-aunt. Mr.
Ludlow, towards the last, had been able to snatch a few weeks
from his forensic triumphs, and, crossing the ocean with extreme
rapidity, spent a month with the two ladies in Paris, before
taking his wife home. The little Ludlows had not yet, even
from the American point of view, reached the proper tourist-age ;
so that while her sister was with her, Isabel confined her move-
ments to a narrow circle. Lily and the babies had joined her in
Switzerland in the month of July, and they had spent a summer
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 149
of fine weather in an Alpine valley where the flowers were
thick in the meadows, and the shade of great chestnuts made a
resting-place in such upward wanderings as might be undertaken
hy ladies and children on warm afternoons. Afterwards they
had come to Paris, a city heloved by Lily, but less appreciated
by Isabel, who in those days was constantly thinking of Rome.
Mrs. Ludlow enjoyed Paris, but she was nevertheless somewhat
disappointed and puzzled ; and after her husband had joined her
she was in addition a good deal depressed at not being able to
induce him to enter into these somewhat subtle and complex
emotions. They all had Isabel for their object ; but Edmund
Ludlow, as he had always done before, declined to be surprised,
or distressed, or mystified, or elated, at anything his sister-in-law
might have done or have failed to do. Mrs. Ludlow's feelings
were various. At one moment she thought it would be so
natural for Isabel to come home and take a house in New York
— the Rossiters', for instance, which had an elegant conservatory,
and was just round the comer from her own ; at another she
could not conceal her surprise at the girl's not marrying some
gentleman of rank in one of the foreign countries. On the
whole, as I have said, she was rather disappointed. She had
taken more satisfaction in Isabel's accession of fortune than if the
money had been left to herself ; it had seemed to her to offer
just the proper setting for her sister's slender but eminent figure.
Isabel had developed less, however, than Lily had thought
likely — development, to Lily's understanding, being somehow
mysteriously connected with morning-calls and evening-parties.
Intellectually, doubtless, she had made immense strides; but
she appeared to have achieved few of those social conquests of
which Mrs. Ludlow had expected to admire the trophies. Lily's
conception of such achievements was extremely vague ; but this
160 ^ THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
was exactly what she had expected of Isabel — to give it form
and body. Isabel could have done as well as she had done in
ITew York ; and Mrs. Ludlow appealed to her husband to know
whether there was any privilege that she enjoyed in Europe
which the society of that city might not offer her. We know,
ourselves, that Isabel had made conquests — whether inferior or
not to those she might have effected in her native land, it would
be a delicate matter to decide ; and it is not altogether with a
feeling of complacency that I again mention that she had not
made these honourable victories public. She had not told her
sister the history of Lord Warburton, nor had she given her a
hint of Mr. Osmond's state of mind ; and she had no better
reason for her silence than that she didn't wish to speak. It
entertained her more to say nothing, and she had no idea of
asking poor Lily's advice. But Lily knew nothing of these rich
mysteries, and it is no wonder, therefore, that she pronounced her
sister's career in Europe rather dull — an impression confirmed by
the fact that Isabel's silence about Mr. Osmond, for instance,
was in direct proportion to the frequency with which he occupied
her thoughts. As this happened very often, it sometimes
appeared to Mrs. Ludlow that her sister was really losing her
gaiety. So very strange a result of so exhilarating an incident
as inheriting a fortune was of course perplexing to the cheerful
Lily ; it added to her general sense that Isabel was not at all
like other people.
Isabel's gaiety, however — superficially speaking, at least —
exhibited itself rather more after her sister had gone home. She
could imagine something more poetic than spending the winter
in Paris — Paris was like smart, neat prose — and her frequent
correspondence with Madame Merle did much to stimulate such,
fancies. She had never had a keener sense of freedom, of the
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 161
al3Solute l3oldness and wantonness of liberty, than' when she
turned away from the platform at the Euston station, on one of
the latter days of November, after the departure of the train
which was to convey poor Lily, her husband, and her children,
to their ship at LiverpooL It had been good for her to have
them with her ; she was very conscious of that ; she was very
observant, as we know, of what was good for her, and her effort
was constantly to find something that was good enough. To
profit by the present advantage till the latest moment, she had
made the journey from Paris with the unenvied travellers. She
would have accompanied them to Liverpool as well, only Edmund
Ludlow had asked her, as a favour, not to do so ; it made Lily
so fidgety, and she asked such impossible questions. Isabel
watched the train move away ; she kissed her hand to the elder
of her small nephews, a demonstrative child who leaned danger-
ously far out of the window of the carriage and made separation
an occasion of violent hilarity, and then she walked back into
the foggy London street. The world lay before her — she could
do whatever she chose. There was something exciting in the
feeling, but for the present her choice was tolerably discreet ;
she chose simply to walk back from Euston Square to her hotel.
The early dusk of a November afternoon had already closed in ;
the street-lamps, in the thick, brown air, looked weak and red ;
our young lady was unattended, and Euston Square was a long
way from Piccadilly. But Isabel performed the journey with a
positive enjoyment of its dangers, and lost her way almost on
purpose, in order to get more sensations, so that she was dis-
appointed when an obliging policeman easily set her right again.
She was so fond of the spectacle of human life that she enjoyed
even the aspect of gathering dusk in the London streets — the
moving crowds, the hurrying cabs, the lighted shops, the flaring
152 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
stalls, the dark, shining dampness of everything. That evening,
at her hotel, she wrote to Madame Merle that she should start in a
day or two for Rome. She made her way down to Rome without
touching at Florence — having gone first to Venice and then
proceeded southward by Ancona. She accomplished this journey
without other assistance than that of her servant, for her natural
protectors were not now on the ground. Ralph Touchett was
spending the winter at Corfu, and Miss Stackpole, in the
September previous, had been recalled to America by/ a telegram
from the Interviewer. This journal offered its brilliant corre-
spondent a fresher field for her talents than the mouldering cities
of Europe, and Henrietta was cheered on her way by a promise
from Mr. Bantling that he would soon come over and see her.
Isabel wrote to Mrs. Touchett to apologise for not coming just
then to Florence, and her aunt replied characteristically enough.
Apologies, Mrs. Touchett intimated, were of no more use than
soap-bubbles, and she herself never dealt in such articles. One
either did the thing or one didn't, and what one would have
done belonged to the sphere of the irrelevant, like the idea of a
future life or of the origin of things. Her letter was frank, hut
(a rare case with Mrs. Touchett) it was not so frank as it seemed.
She easily forgave her niece for not stopping at Florence, because
she thought it was a sign that there was nothing going on with
Gilbert Osmond. She watched, of course, to' see whether Mr.
Osmond would now go to . Rome, and took some comfort in
learning that he was not guilty of an absence. Isabel, on her
side, had not been a fortnight in Rome before she proposed to
Madame Merle that they should make a little pilgrimage to the
East. Madame Merle remarked that her friend was restless, hut
she added that she herself had always been consumed with the
desire to visit Athens and Constantinople. The two ladies
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 153
accordingly embarked on this expedition, and spent three months
in Greece, in Turkey, in Egypt. Isabel found much to interest
her in these countries, though Madame Merle continued to
remark that even among the most classic sites, the scenes most
calculated to suggest repose and reflection, her restlessness pre-
vailed. Isabel travelled rapidly, eagerly, audaciously ; she was
like a thirsty person draining cup after cup. Madame Merle,
for the present, was a most efficient duenna. It was on Isabel's
invitation she had come, and she imparted all necessary dignity
to the girl's uncountenanced condition. She played her part
with the sagacity that might have been expected of her ; she
effaced herself, she accepted the position of a companion whose
expenses were profusely paid. The situation, however, had no
hardships, and people who met this graceful pair on their travels
would not have been able to tell you which was the patroness
and which the client. To say that Madame Merle improved on
acquaintance would misrepresent the impression she made upon
Isabel, who had thought her from the first a perfectly enlightened
woman. At the end of an intimacy of three months Isabel felt
that she knew her better ; her character had revealed itself, and
Madame Merle had also at last redeemed her promise of relating
her history from her own point of view — a consummation the
more desirable as Isabel had already heard it related from the
point of view of others. This history was so sad a one (in so
far as it concerned the late M. Merle, an adventurer of the
lowest class, who had taken advantage, years before, of her
youth, and of an inexperience in which doubtless those who
knew her only now would find it difficult to believe) ; it
abounded so in startling and lamentable incidents, that Isabel
wondered the poor lady had kept so much of her freshness, her
interest in life. Into this freshness of Madame Merle's she
154 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
obtained a considerable insight ; she saw that it was, after all, a
tolerably artificial bloom. Isabel liked her as much as ever, but
there was a certain comer of the curtain that never was lifted ;
it was as if Madame Merle had remained after all a foreigner.
She had once said that she came from a distance, that she
belonged to the old world, and Isabel never lost the impression
that she was the product of a different clime from her own, that
she had grown up under other stars. Isabel believed that at
bottom she had a different morality. Of course the morality
of civilised persons has always much in common; but Isabel
suspected that her friend had esoteric views. She believed,
with the presumption of youth, that a morality which differed
from her own must be inferior to it ; and this conviction was an
aid to detecting an occasional flash of cruelty, an occasional lapse
from candour, in the conversation of a woman who had raised
delicate kindness to an art, and whose nature was too large for
the narrow ways of deception. Her conception of human motives
was different from Isabel's, and there were several in her list of
which our heroine had not even heard. She had not heard of
everything, that was very plain ; and there were evidently
things in the world of which it was not advantageous to
hear. Once or twice Isabel had a sort of fright, but the
reader will be amused at the cause of it. Madame Merle, as we
know, comprehended, responded, sympathised, with wonderful
readiness; yet it had nevertheless happened that her young
friend mentally exclaimed — " Heaven forgive her, she doesn't
understand me ! " Absurd as it may seem, this discovery operated
as a shock ; it left Isabel with a vague horror, in which there
was even an element of forebodiug. The horror of course sub-
sided, in the light of some sudden proof of Madame Merle's
remarkable intelligence ; but it' left a sort of high-water-mark
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 155
in the development of this delightful intimacy. Madame Merle
had once said that, in her belief, when a friendship ceased to
grow, it immediately began to decline — ^there was no point of
equilibrium between liking a person more and liking him less.
A stationary affection, in other words, was impossible — it must
move one way or the other. Without estimating the value of
this doctrine, I may say that if Isabel's imagination, which had
hitherto been so actively engaged on her friend's behalf, began
at last to languish, she enjoyed her society not a particle less
than before. If their friendship had declined, it had declined
to a very comfortable level. The truth is that in these days
the girl had other uses for her imagination, which was better
occupied than it- had ever been. I do not allude to the impulse
it received as she gazed at the Pyramids in the course of an
excursion from Cairo, or as she stood among the broken columns
of the Acropolis and fixed her eyes upon the point designated
to her as the Strait of Salamis ; deep and memorable as these
emotions had been. She came back by the last of March from
Egypt and Greece, and made another stay in Eome. A few
days after her arrival Gilbert Osmond came down from Florence,
and remained three weeks, during which the fact of her being
with his old friend, Madame Merle, in whose house she had
gone to lodge, made it virtually inevitable that he should see
her every day. When the last of April came she wrote to Mrs.
Touchett that she should now be very happy to accept an invit-
ation given long before, and went to pay a visit at the Palazzo
Crescentini, Madame Merle on this occasion remaining in Rome.
Isabel found her aunt alone; her cousin was still at Corfu.
Ralph, however, was expected in Florence from day to day, and
Isabel, who had not seen him for upwards of a year, was prepared
to give him the most affectionate welcome.
3« THE POETEAIT OF A LADY.
It was not of him, nevertheless, that she was thinking iwliile
»\i(i nUMjil at the window, where we found her a while ago, and
it wa8 not of any of the matters that I have just rapidly sketched.
8he was not thinking of the past, hut of the future ; of the
imme^liate, impending hour. She had reason to expect a scene,
and she was not fond of scenes. She was not asking herself
wlmt she should say to her visitor ; this question had already
been answered. What he would say to her — that was the
interesting speculation. It could be nothing agreeable ; Isabel
was convinced of this, and the conviction had something to do
with her being rather paler than usuaL For the rest, however,
she wore her natural brightness of aspect ; even deep grief, with
this vivid young lady, would have had a certain soft eflFulgence.
Hlie had laid aside her mourning, but she was still very simply
dressed, and as she felt a good deal older than she had done a
year before, it is probable that to a certain extent she looked so.
She was not left indefinitely to her apprehensions, for the servant
at last came in and presented her a card.
" Let the gentleman come in," said Isabel, who continued to
gaze out of the window after the footman had retired. It was
only when she had heard the door close behind the person who
presuutly entered that she looked round.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 167
Caspar Goodwood stood there — stood and received a moment,
from head to foot, the bright, dry gaze with which she rather
withheld than offered a greeting. Whether on his side Mr.
Goodwood felt himself older than on the first occasion of our
meeting him, is a point which we shall perhaps presently ascer-
tain ; let me say meanwhile that to IsabeFs critical glance he
showed nothing of the injury of time. Straight, strong, and
fresh, there was nothing in his appearance that spoke posi-
tively either of youth or of age ; he looked too deliberate, too
serious to be young, and too eager, too active to be old. Old he
would never be, and this would serve as a compensation for his
never having known the age of chubbiness. Isabel perceived
that his jaw had quite the same voluntary look that it had worn
in earlier days; but she was prepared to admit that such a
moment as the present was not a time for relaxation. He had
the air of a man who had travelled hard ; he said nothing at
first, as if he had been out of breath. This gave Isabel time to
make a reflection. "Poor fellow," she mentally murmured,
" what great things he is capable of, and what a pity that he
should waste his splendid force ! What a pity, too, that one can't
satisfy everybody ! '* It gave her time to do more — to say at
the end of a minute,
" I can't tell you how I hoped that you wouldn't come."
" I have no doubt of that." And Caspar Goodwood looked
about him for a seat. Not only had he come, but he meant to
stay a little.
" You must be very tired," said Isabel, seating herself, gener-
ously, as she thought, to give him his opportunity.
" No, I am not at all tired. Did you ever know me to be
tired 1 "
" Never ; I wish I had. When did you arrive here ? "
158 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Last night, very late ; in a kind of snail-train they call the
express. These Italian trains go at about the rate of an American
"That is in keeping — you must have felt as if you were
coming to a funeral/' Isabel said, forcing a smile, in order to
offer such encouragement as she might to an easy treatment of
their situation. She had reasoned out the matter elaborately;
she had made it perfectly clear that she broke no faith, that she
falsified no contract ; but for all this she was afraid of him. She
was ashamed of her fear ; but she was devoutly thankful there
was nothing else to be ashamed of. He looked at her with his
stiff persistency — a persistency in which there was almost a want
of tact ; especially as there was a dull dark beam in his eye
which rested on her almost like a physical weight.
" No, I didn't feel that ; because I couldn't * think of you as
dead. I wish I could ! " said Caspar Groodwood, plainly.
" I thank you immensely."
'' I would rather think of you as dead than as married to
*' That is very selfish of you ! " Isabel cried, with the ardour
of a real conviction. " If you are not happy yourself, others
have a right to be."
" Very likely it is selfish ; but I don't in the least mind your
saying so. I don't mind anything you can say now — I don't
feel it The cruellest things you could think of would be mere pin-
pricks. After what you have done I shall never feel anything.
I mean anything but that. That I shall feel all my life."
Mr. GrOodwood made these detached assertions with a sort
of dry deliberateness, in his hard, slow American tone, which
flung no atmospheric colour over propositions intrinsically crude.
The tone made Isabel angry rather than touched her ; but her
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 159
anger perhaps was I'ortuuate, inasmuch as it gave her a further
reason for controlling herself. It was under the pressure of this
control that she said, after a little, irrelevantly, by way of
answer to Mr. Goodwood's speech — " When did you leave New
York 1 "
He threw up his head a moment, as if he were calculating.
" Seventeen days ago."
"You must have travelled fast in spite of your slow
" I came as fast as I could. I would have come five days ago
if I had been able."
"It wouldn't have made any diflference, Mr. Goodwood,"
said Isabel, smiling.
" Not to you — ^no. But to me."
" You gain nothing that I see."
" That is for me to judge ! "
" Of course. To me it seems that you only torment yourself."
And then, to change the subject, Isabel asked him if lie had
seen Henrietta Stackpole.
He looked as if he had not come from Boston to Florence to
talk about Henrietta Stackpole ; but he answered distinctly
enough, that this young lady had come to see him just before he
" She came to see you 1 "
" Yes, she was in Boston, and she called at my ofl&ce. It was
the day I had got your letter."
" Did you tell her 1 " Isabel asked, with a certain anxiety.
*' Oh no," said Caspar Goodwood, simply ; " I didn't want to.
She will hear it soon enough ; she hears everything."
" I shall write to her ; and then she will write to me and
scold me," Isabel declared, trying to smile again.
160 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Caspar, however, remained sternly grave. "I guess shell
come out," he said.
" On purpose to scold me 1 "
^* I don't know. She seemed to think she had not seen
" I am glad you tell me that," Isabel said. " I must prepare
Mr. Groodwood fixed his eyes for a moment on the floor ; then
at last, raising them — " Does she know Mr. Osmond 1 " he
" A little. And she doesn't like him. But of course I don't
marry to please Henrietta,** Isabel added.
It would have been better for poor Caspar if she had tried
a little more to gratify Miss Stackpole; but he did not say
so; he only asked, presently, when her marriage would take
" I don*t know yet. I can only say it will be soon. I have
told no one but yourself and one other person — an old fidend
of Mr. Osmond's."
" Is it a. marriage your friends won't like 1 " Caspar Goodwood
" I really haven't an idea. As I say, I don't marry for my
He went on, making no exclamation, no comment, only asking
" What is Mr. Osmond? "
" What is he ] Nothing at all but a very good man. He is
not in business," said Isabel. " He is not rich ; he is not known
for anything in particular."
She disliked Mr. Goodwood's questions, but she said to hsr-
self that she owed it to him to satisfy him as far as possible*
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 161
The satisfaction poor Caspar exhibited was certainly small ; he
sat very upright, gazing at her.
" Where does he come from 1 " he went on.
" From nowhere. He has spent most of his life in Italy."
" You said in your letter that he was an American. Hasn't
he a native place 1 "
"Yes, but he has forgotten it. He left it as a small boy."
" Has he never gone back ? "
" Why should he go back 1 " Isabel asked, flushing a little, .
and defensively. " He has no profession."
^' He might have gone back for his pleasure. Doesn't he like
the United States ] "
" He doesn't know them. Then he is very simple — he con-
tents himself with Italy."
" With Italy and with you," said Mr. Goodwood, with gloomy
plainness, and no appearance of trying to make an epigram.
" What has he ever done ] " he added, abruptly.
" That I should marry him 1 Nothing at all," Isabel replied,
with a smUe that had gradually become a trifle defiant. " If he
had done great things would you forgive me any better 1 Give
me up, Mr. Goodwood ; I am marrying a nonentity. Don't try
to take an interest in him ; you can't."
" I can't appreciate him ; that's what you mean. And you
don't mean in the least that he is a nonentity. You think he is
a great man, though no one else thinks so."
Isabel's colour deepened ; she thought this very clever of her
companion, and it was certainly a proof of the clairvoyance of
such a feeling as his.
" Why do you always come back to what others think 1 I
can't discuss Mr. Osmond with you."
" Of course not," said Caspar, reasonably.
VOL. IL M
162 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
And he sat there with his air of stiff helplessness, as if not
only this were true, hut there were nothing else that they might
" You see how little you gain," Isahel broke out — " how little
comfort or satisfaction I can give you."
"I didn't expect you to give me much.**
" I don*t understand, then, why you came.*'
" I came because I wanted to see you once more — as you are."
^* I appreciate that ; but if you had waited a while, sooner or
later we should have been sure to meet, and our meeting would
have been pleasanter for each of us than this.*'
" Waited till after you are married ? That is just what I
didn't want to do. You will be diflferent then.**
" Not very. I shall still be a great friend of yours. You
" That will make it all the worse," said Mr. Goodwood, grimly.
" Ah, you are unaccommodating ! I can't promise to dislike
you, in order to help you to resign yourself.**
" I shouldn't care if you did ! "
Isabel got up, with a movement of repressed impatience, and
walked to the window, where she remained a moment, looking
out. When she turned round, her visitor was still motionless in
his place. She came towards him again and stopped, resting
her hand on the back of the chair she had just quitted.
" Do you mean you came simply to look at me ] That's better
for you, perhaps, than for me.**
" I wished to hear the sound of your voice,*' said Caspar.
" You have heard it, and you see it says nothing very sweet."
" It gives me pleasure, all the same.**
And with this he got up.
She had felt pain and displeasure when she received that
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 163
morning the note in which he told her that he was in Florence,
and, with her permission, would come within an hour to see her.
She had been vexed and distressed, though she had sent back word
by his messenger that he might come when he would. She had
not been better pleased when she saw him ; his being there at
all was so full of implication. It implied things she could never
assent to — rights, reproaches, remonstrance, rebuke, the expecta-
tion of making her change her purpose. These things, however,
if implied, had not been expressed ; and now our young lady,
strangely enough, began to resent her visitor's remarkable self-
control. There was a dumb misery about him which irritated
her ; there was a manly staying of his hand which made her
heart beat faster. She felt her agitation rising, and she said to
herself that she was as angry as a woman who had been in the
wrong. She was not in the wrong ; she had fortimately not
that bitterness to swallow; but, all the same, she wished he
would denounce her a little. She had wished his visit woidd be
short ; it had no purpose, no propriety ; yet now that he seemed
to be turning away, she felt a sudden horror of his leaving her
without uttering a word that would give her an opportunity to
defend herself more than she had done in writing to him a
month before, in a few carefully chosen words, to announce her
engagement. If she were not in the wrong, however, why
should she desire to defend herself 1 It was an excess of gener-
osity on Isabel's part to desire that Mr. Goodwood should be
If he had not held himself hard it might have made him so to
hear the tone in which she suddenly exclaimed, as if she were
accusing him of having accused her,
" I have not deceived you ! I was perfectly free ! "
" Yes, I know that," said Caspar.
164 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" I gave you full warning that I would do as I chose."
" You said you would probably never marry, and you said it
so positively that I pretty well believed it."
Isabel was silent an instant.
" No one can be more surprised than myself at my present
" You told me that if I heard you wer6 engaged, I was not to
believe it," Caspar went on. " I heard it twenty days ago from
yourself, but I remembered what you had said. I thought there
might be some mistake, and that is partly why I came."
" If you wish me to repeat it by word of mouth, that is soon
done. There is no mistake, at alL"
" I saw that as soon as I came into the room."
" What good would it do you that I shouldn't marry 1 " Isabel
asked, with a certain fierceness.
" I should like it better than this."
** You are very selfish, as I said before."
"I know that. I am selfish as iron."
" Even iron sometimes melts. If you will be reasonable I
will see you again."
" Don't you call me reasonable now 1 "
"I don't know what to say to you," she answered, with
" I sha'n't trouble you for a long time," the young man went
on. He made a step towards the door, but he stopped. ** An-
other reason why I came was that I wanted to hear what you
would say in explanation of your having changed your mind."
Isabel's humbleness as suddenly deserted her.
** In explanation 1 Do you think I am bound to explain 1 "
Caspar gave her one of his long dumb looks.
" You were very positive. I did believe it."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 166
" So did I. Do you think I could explain if I would 1 "
" No, I suppose not. Well," he added, " I have done what I
wished. I have seen you."
"How little you make of these terrible journeys," Isabel
" If you are afraid I am tired, you may be at your ease about
that." He turned away, this time in earnest, and no hand-
shake, no sign of parting, was exchanged between them. At
the door he stopped, with his hand on the knob. ** I shall
leave Florence to-morrow," he said.
"I am delighted to hear it ! " she answered, passionately.
And he went out. Five minutes after he had gone she burst
166 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Her fit of weeping, however, was of brief duration, and the
signs of it had vanished when, an hour later, she broke the news
to her aunt. I use this expression because she had been sure
Mrs. Touchett would not be pleased ; Isabel had only waited
to tell her till she had seen Mr. Goodwood. She had aji odd
impression that it would not be honourable to make the fact
public before she should have heard what Mr. Goodwood "would
say about it. He had said rather less than she expected, and
she now had a somewhat angry sense of having lost time. But
she would lose no more; she waited till Mrs. Touchett came
into the drawing-room before the mid-day breakfast, and then
she said to her —
" Aunt Lydia, I have something to tell you."
Mrs. Touchett gave a little jump and looked at the girl almost
" You needn't tell me ; I know what it is."
" I don't know how you know."
" The same way that I know when the window is open — by
feeling a draught. You are going to marry that man."
"What man do you meani" Isabel inquired, with great
" Madame Merle's friend — Mr. Osmond."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 167
" I don't know why you call him Madame Merle's friend. Is
that the principal thing he is known by 1 "
" If he is not her friend he ought to be — after what she has
done for him ! " cried Mrs. Touchett. " I shouldn't have
expected it of her; I am disappointed."
" If you mean that Madame Merie has had anything to do
with my engagement you are greatly mistaken," Isabel declared,
with a sort of ardent coldness.
" You mean that your attractions were sufficient, without
the gentleman being urged? You are quite right. They are
immense, your attractions, and he would never have presumed
to think of you if she had not put him up to it. He has a very
good opinion of himself, but he was not a man to take trouble.
Madame Merle took the trouble for him."
" He has taken a great deal for himself ! " cried Isabel, with a
Mrs. Touchett gave a sharp nod.
" I think he must, after all, to have made you like himu"
" I thought you liked him yourself."
" I did, and that is why I am angry with him."
" Be angry with me, not with him," said the girl.
"Oh, I am always angry with you; that's no satisfaction!
Was it for this that you refused Lord Warburton 1 "
" Please don't go back to that. Why shouldn't I like Mr.
Osmond, since you did 1 "
** I never wanted to marry him ; there is nothing of him."
** Then he can't hurt me," said Isabel.
"Do you think you are going to be happy? No one is
" I shaU set the fashion then. What does one marry for ? "
"What you will marry for, heaven only knows. People
168 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
usually marry as they go into partnership — to set up a house.
But in your partnership you will bring everything."
" Is it that Mr. Osmond is not rich 1 Is that what -you are
talking about 1 " Isabel asked.
'^ He has no money ; he has no name ; he has no importance.
I value such things and I have the courage to say it ; I think
they are very precious. Many other people think the same, and
they show it. But they give some other reason ! "
Isabel hesitated a little.
" I think I value everything that is valuable. I care very much
for money, and that is why I wish Mr. Osmond to have some."
" Give it to him, then ; but marry some one else."
" His name is good enough for me," the girl went on. " It's
a very pretty name. Have I such a fine one myself 1 "
"AU the more reason you should improve on it. There are
only a dozen American names. Do you marry him out of
" It was my duty to tell you, Aunt Lydia, but I don't think
it is my duty to explain to you. Even if it were, I shouldn't
be able. So please don't remonstrate ; in talking about it you
have me at a disadvantage. I can't talk about it."
"I don't remonstrate, I simply answer you; I must give
some sign of intelligence. I saw it coming, and I said nothing.
I never meddle."
" You never do, and I am greatly obliged to you. You have
been very considerate."
"It was not considerate — it was convenient," said Mrs.
Touchett. " But I shall talk to Madame Merle."
" I don't see why you keep bringing her in. She has been a
very good friend to me."
" Possibly ; but she has been a poor one to me."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 169
" What has she done to you 1 "
" She has deceived me. She had as good as promised me to
prevent your engagement."
" She couldn't have prevented it."
" She can do anything ; that is what I have always liked her
for. I knew she could play any part ; but I understood that
she played them one by one. I didn't understand that she
would play two at the same time."
" I don't know what part she may have played to you," Isabel
said ; " that is between yourselves. To me she has been honest,
and kind, and devoted."
" Devoted, of course ; she wished you to marry her candidate.
She told me that she was watching you only in order to interpose."
" She said that to please you," the girl answered ; conscious,
however, of the inadequacy of the explanation.
" To please me by deceiving me 1 She knows me better. Am
I pleased to-day 1 "
" I don't think you are ever much pleased," Isabel was
obliged to reply. " If Madame Merle knew you would learn
the truth, what had she to gain by insincerity 1 "
" She gained time, as you see. While I waited for her to
interfere you were marching away, and she was really beating
" That is very well But by your own admission you saw I
was marching, and even if she had given the alarm you would
not have tried to stop me."
" No, but some one else would."
" Whom do you mean ] " Isabel asked, looking very hard at
Mrs. Touchett's little bright eyes, active as they usually were,
sustained her gaze rather than returned it.
170 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Would you have listened to Ealph 1 "
" Not if he had abused Mr. Osmond."
" Ralph doesn't abuse people ; you know that perfectly. He
cares very much for you.**
" I know he does,'* said Isabel ; " and I shall feel the value
of it now, for he knows that whatever I do I do with
" He never believed you would do this. I told him you were
capable of it, and he argued the other way.**
'* He did it for the sake of argument,** said Isabel, smiling.
" You don*t accuse him of having deceived you ; why sboold
you accuse Madame Merle 1 '*
" He never pretended he would prevent it.**
" I am glad of that 1 ** cried the girl, gaily. " I wish very
much,** she presently added, " that when he comes you would
tell him first of my engagement.**
" Of course I will mention it,'* said Mrs. Touchett. ** I will
say nothing more to you about it, but I give you notice I will
talk to others."
" That*s as you please. I only meant that it is rather better
the announcement should come from you than from me."
" I quite agree with you ; it is much more proper ! **
And on this the two ladies went to breakfast, where Mrs.
Touchett was as good as her word, and made no allusion to
Gilbert Osmond. After an interval of silence, however, she
asked her companion from whom she had received a visit an
** From an old friend — an American gentleman,*' Isabel said,
with a colour in her cheek.
" An American, of course. It is only an American that calls
at ten o*clock in the morning."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 171
" It was half-past ten ; he was in a great hurry ; he goes
away this evening."
" Couldn't he have come yesterday, at the usual time 1 '*
" He only arrived last night."
" He spends but twenty-four hours in Florence?" Mrs.
Touchett cried. " He's an American truly."
** He is indeed," said Isabel, thinking with a perverse admuv
ation of what Caspar Goodwood had done for her.
Two days afterward Ealph arrived; but though Isabel was
sure that Mrs. Touchett had lost no time in telling him the
news, he betrayed at first no knowledge of the great fact. Their
first talk was naturally about his health ; Isabel had many ques-
tions to ask about Corfu. She had been shocked by his appear-
ance when he came into the room ; she had forgotten how ill he
looked. In spite of Corfu, he looked very ill to-day, and Isabel
wondered whether he were really worse or whether she was
simply disaccustomed to living with an invalid. Poor Ealph
grew no handsomer as he advanced in life, and the now ap-
parently complete loss of his health had done little to mitigate
the natural oddity of his person. His face wore its pleasant
perpetual smile, which perhaps suggested wit rather than achieved
it ; his thin whisker languished upon a lean cheek ; the exor-
bitant curve of his nose defined itself more sharply. Lean he
was altogether ; lean and long and loose-jointed ; an accidental
cohesion of relaxed angles. His brown velvet jacket had
become perennial ; his hands had fixed themselves in his
pockets ; he shambled, and stumbled, and shuffled, in a manner
that denoted great physical helplessness. It was perhaps this
whimsical gait that helped to mark his character more than
ever as that of the humorous invalid — the invalid for whom
even his own disabilities are part of the general joke. They
172 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
might well indeed with Ealph have been the chief cause of
the want of seriousness with which he appeared to regard a
world in which the reason for his own presence was past
finding out. Isabel had grown fond of his ugliness; his
awkwardness had become dear to her. These things were
endeared by association; they struck her as the conditions of
his being so charming. Ealph was so charming that her sense
of his being ill had hitherto had a sort of comfort in it; the
state of his health had seemed not a limitation, but a kind of
intellectual advantage; it absolved him from all professional
and official emotions and left him the luxury of being simply
personal. This personality of Ealph's was delightful ; it had
none of the staleness of disease ; it was always easy and fresh
and genial. Such had been the girl's impression of her cousin ;
and when she had pitied him it was only on reflection. As she
reflected a good deal she had given him a certain amount of
compassion ; but Isabel always had a dread of wasting compassion
— a precious article, worth more to the giver than to any one else.
Now, however, it took no great ingenuity to discover that poop
Ealph's tenure of life was less elastic than it should be. He was
a dear, bright, generous fellow ; he had all the illumination of
wisdom and none of its pedantry, and yet he was dying. Isabel
said to herself that life was certainly hard for some people, and
she felt a delicate glow of shame as she thought how easy it now
promised to become for herself. She was prepared to learn that
Ealph was not pleased with her engagement ; but she was not pre-
pared, in spite of her affection for her cousin, to let this fact spoil
the situation. She was not even prepared — or so she thought —
to resent his want of sympathy ; for it would be his privilege —
it would be indeed his natural line — ^to find fault with any step
she might take toward marriage. One's cousin always pretended
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 173
to hate one's husband ; that was traditional, classical ; it was a
part of one's cousin's always pretending to adore one. Ralph was
nothing if not critical ; and though she would certainly, other
things being equal, have been as glad to marry to please Ealph
as to please any one, it would be absurd to think it important
that her choice should square with his views. What were his
views, after alii He had pretended to think she had better
marry Lord Warburton ; but this was only because she had re-
fused that excellent man. If she had accepted him Ralph would
certainly have taken another tone ; he always took the opposite
one. You could criticise any marriage ; it was of the essence of
a marriage to be open to criticism. How well she herself, if she
would only give her mind to it, might criticise this imion of
her own ! She had other employment, however, and Ralph was
welcome to relieve her of the care. Isabel was prepared to be
He must have seen that, and this made it the more odd that
he should say nothing. After three days had elapsed without
his speaking, Isabel became impatient; dislike it as he would,
he might at least go through the form. We who know more
about poor Ralph than his cousin, may easily believe that during
the hours that foUowed his arrival at the Palazzo Crescentini,
he had privately gone through many forms. His mother had
literally greeted him with the great news, which was even more
sensibly chilling than Mrs. Touchett's matenial kiss. Ralph
was shocked and humiliated ; his calculations had been false,
and his cousin was lost. He drifted about the house like a
rudderless vessel in a rocky stream, or sat in the garden of the
palace in a great cane chair, with his long legs extended, his
head thrown back, and his hat pulled over his eyes. He felt
cold about the heart ; he had never liked anything less. What
174 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
could he do, what could he say ] If Isabel were irreclaimable,
could he pretend to like it? To attempt to reclaim her was
permissible only if the attempt should succeed. To try to per-
suade her that the man to whom she had pledged her faith was
a humbug would be decently discreet only in the event of her
being persuaded. Otherwise he should simply have damned
himself. It cost him an equal effort to speak his thought and
to dissemble ; he could neither assent with sincerity nor protest
with hope. Meanwhile he knew — or rather he supposed — ^that
the affianced pair were daily renewing their mutual vows.
Osmond, at this moment, showed himself little at the Palazzo
Crescentini; but Isabel met him every day elsewhere, as she
was free to do after their engagement had been made public.
She had taken a carriage by the month, so as not to be indebted
to her aunt for the means of pursuing a course of which Mrs.
Touchett disapproved, and she drove in the morning to the
Cascine. This suburban wilderness, during the early hou^, was
void of all intruders, and our young lady, joined by her lover in
its quietest part, strolled with him a while in the grey Italian
shade and listened to the nightingales.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 175
One morning, on her return from her drive, some half-hour
before luncheon, she quitted her vehicle in the court of the
palace, and instead of ascending the great staircase, crossed the
court, passed beneath another archway, and entered the garden.
A sweeter spot, at this moment, could not have been imagined.
The stillness of noontide hung over it ; the warm shade was
motionless, and the hot light made it pleasant. Ealphwas
sitting there in the clear gloom, at the base of a statue of
Terpsichore — a dancing nymph with taper fingers and inflated
draperies, in the manner of Bernini ; the extreme relaxation of
his attitude suggested at first to Isabel that he was asleep. Her
light footstep on the grass had not roused him, and before turn-
ing away she stood for a moment looking at him. During this
instant he opened his eyes ; upon which she sat down on a rustic
chair that matched with his own. Though in her irritation she
had accused him of indifference, she was not blind to the fact
that he was visibly preoccupied. But she had attributed his
long reveries partly to the languor of his increased weakness,
partly to his being troubled about certain arrangements he had
made as to the property inherited from his father — arrangements
of which Mrs. Touchett disapproved, and which, as she had told
Isabel, now encountered opposition from the other partners in
176 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
the bank. He ought to have gone to England, his mother said,
instead of coming to Florence ; he had not been there for months,
and he took no more interest in the bank than in the state of
" I am Sony I waked yon," Isabel said ; " yon look tired."
"I feel tired. But I was not asleep. I was thinking of
" Are you tired of that 1 "
" Very much so. It leads to nothing. The road is long and
I never arrive."
"What do you wish to arrive atl" Isabel said, closing her
" At the point of expressing to myself properly what I think
of your engagement."
" Don't think too much of it," said Isabel, lightly.
" Do you mean that it's none of my business 1 "
" Beyond a certain point, yes."
" That's the point I wish to fix. I had an idea that you have
found me wanting in good manners ; I have never congratulated
" Of course I have noticed that ; I wondered why you were
"There have been a good many reasons; I will tell you
now," said Ealph.
He pulled off his hat and laid it on the ground ; then he sat
looking at her. He leaned back, with his head against the
marble pedestal of Terpsichore, his arms dropped on either side
of him, his hands laid upon the sides of his wide chair. He
looked awkward, uncomfortable ; he hesitated for a long time.
Isabel said nothing; when people were embarrassed she was
usually sorry for them; but she was determined not to help
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 177
Ealph to utter a word that should not be to the honour of her
" I think I have hardly got over my surprise," he said at last.
" You were the last person I expected to see caught."
" I don't know why you call it caught."
" Because you are going to be put into a cage."
" If I like my cage, that needn't trouble you," said Isabel.
"That's what I wonder at; that's what I have been thinking of."
" If you have been thinking, you may imagine how I have
thought ! I am satisfied that I am doing well."
" You must have changed immensely. A year ago you
valued your liberty beyond everything. You wanted only to
" I have seen it," said Isabel " It doesn't seem to me so
" I don't pretend it is ; only I had an idea that you took a
genial view of it and wanted to survey the whole field."
'' I have seen that one can't do that. One must choose a
corner and cultivate that."
" That's what I think. And one must choose a good comer.
I had no idea, all winter, while I read your delightful letters
that you were choosing. You said nothing about it, and your
silence put me off my guard."
"It was not a matter I was likely to write to you about.
Besides, I knew nothing of the future. It has all come lately.
If you had been on your guard, however," Isabel asked, " what
would you have done 1 "
" I should have said — * Wait a little longer.' "
« Wait for what ] "
"Well, for a little more light," said Ralph, with a rather
absurd smile, while his hands found their way into his pockets.
VOL. n. N
178 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Where should my light have come from ] From you 1 "
** I might have struck a spark or two ! "
Isabel had drawn off her gloves ; she smoothed them out as
they lay upon her knee. The gentleness of this movement was
accidental, for her expression was not conciliatory.
" You are beating about the bush, Ealph. You wish to say-
that you don't like Mr. Osmond, and yet you are afraid."
" I am afraid of you, not of him. If you marry him it won't
be a nice thing to have said."
" TjT I marry him ! Have you had any expectation of dissuad-
ing me 1 "
" Of course that seems to you too fatuous."
" No," said Isabel, after a little ; " it seems to me touching."
'^ That's the same thing. It makes me so ridiculous that you
Isabel stroked out her long gloves again.
" I know you have a great affection for me. I can't get rid of
" For heaven's sake don't try. Keep that well in sight. It
will convince you how intensely I want you to do welL"
" And how little you trust me ! "
There was a moment's silence ; the warm noon-tide seemed to
" I trust you, but I don't trust him," said Ralph.
Isabel raised her eyes and gave him a wide, deep look.
"You have said it now; you will suffer for it."
*^ Not if you are just."
" I am very just," said Isabel " What better proof of it can
there be than that I am not angry with you 1 I don't know
what is the matter with me, but I am not. I was when you
began, but it has passed away. Perhaps I ought to be angry,
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 179
but Mr. Osmond wouldn't think so. He wants me to know
everything ; that's what I like him for. You have nothing to
gain, I know that. I have never been so nice to you, as a girl,
that you should have much reason for wishing me to remain one.
You give very good advice ; you have often done so. No, I am
very quiet; I have always believed in your wisdom," Isabel
went on, boasting of her quietness, yet speaking with a kind of
contained exaltation. It was her passionate desire to be just;
it touched Ralph to the heart, affected him like a caress from a
creature he had injured. He wished to interrupt, to reassure
her ; for a moment he was absurdly inconsistent ; he would have
retracted what he had said. But she gave him no chance ; she
went on, having caught a glimpse, as she thought, of ^the heroic
line, and desiring to advance in that direction. " I see you have
got some idea ; I should like very much to hear it. I am sure
it's disinterested ; I feel that. It seems a strange thing to argue
about, and of course I ought to tell you definitely that if you
expect to dissuade me you may give it up. You will not move
me at all ; it is too late. As you say, I am caught. Certainly
it won't be pleasant for you to remember this, but your pain
will be in your own thoughts. I shall never reproach
" I don't think you ever will," said Ealph. " It is not in the
least the sort of marriage I thought you would make."
** What sort of marriage was that, pray ] "
" Well, I can hardly say. I hadn't exactly a positive view
of it, but I had a negative. I didn't think you would marry a
man like Mr. Osmond."
" What do you know against him] You know him scarcely
"Yes," Ralph said, "I know him very little, and I know
180 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
nothing against him. But all the same I can't help feeling that
you are running a risk."
'^ Marriage is always a risk, and his risk is as great as.
" That's his affair ! If he is afraid, let him recede ; I wish
Isahel leaned back in her chair, folded her arms, and gazed a
while at her cousin.
" I don't think I understand you," she said at last, coldly.
" I don't know what you are talking about."
" I thought you would marry a man of more importance."
Cold, I say, her tone had been, but at this a colour like a
flame leaped into her face.
" Of more importance to whom 1 It seems to me enough that
one's husband should be important to one's self ! "
Ralph blushed as well ; his attitude embarrassed him. Physic-
ally speaking, he proceeded to change it ; he straightened him-
self, then leaned forward, resting a hand on each knee. He
fixed his eyes on the ground ; he had an air of the most respectful
" I will tell you in a moment what I mean," he presently
said. He felt agitated, intensely eager ; now that he had opened
the discussion he wished to discharge his mind. But he wished
also to be superlatively gentle.
Isabel waited a little, and then she went on, with majesty.
" In everything that makes one care for people, Mr. Osmond
is pre-eminent. There may be nobler natures, but I have never
had the pleasure of meeting one. Mr. Osmond is the best I
know ; he is important enough for me."
" I had a sort of vision of your future," Ralph said, without
answering this ; " I amused myself with planning out a kind of
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 181
destiny for you. There was to be nothing of this sort in it.
You were not to come down so easily, so soon."
"To come down] What strange expressions you use! Is
that your description of my marriage ? "
" It expresses my idea of it. You seemed to me to be soaring
far up in the blue — to be sailing in the bright light, over the
heads of men. Suddenly some one tosses up a faded rosebud —
a missile that should never have reached you — and down you
drop to the ground. It hurts me," said Ealph, audaciously, " as
if I had fallen myself ! "
The look of pain and bewilderment deepened in his com-
" I don't understand you in the least," she repeated. " You
say you amused yourself with planning out my future — I don't
understand that. Don't amuse yourself too much, or I shall
think you are doing it at my expense."
Ealph shook his head.
" I am not afraid of your not believing that' I have had great
ideas for you."
** What do you mean by my soaring and sailing 1" the girl
asked. " I have never moved on a higher line than I am moving
on now. There is nothing higher for a girl than to marry a — a
person she likes," said poor Isabel, wandering into the didactic.
" It's your liking the person we speak of that I venture to
criticise, my dear Isabel ! I should have said that the man for
you would have been a more active, larger, freer sort of nature."
Ealph hesitated a moment, then he added, " I can't get over the
belief that there's something small in Osmond."
He had uttered these last words with a tremor of the voice ;
he was afraid that she would flash out again. But to his surprise
she was quiet ; she had the air of considering.
182 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Something small] " she said reflectively.
** I think he's narrow, selfish. He takes himself so seriously !"
" He has a great respect for himself ; I don't blame him for
that," said Isabel " It's the proper way to respect others."
Ealph for a moment felt almost reassured by her reasonable
"Yes, but everything is relative; one ought to feel one's
relations. I don't think Mr. Osmond does that."
" I have chiefly to do with the relation in which he stands to
me. In that he is excellent."
" He is the incarnation of taste," Ealph went on, thinking
hard how he could best express Gilbert Osmond's sinister attri-
butes without putting himself in the wrong by seeming to
describe him coarsely. He wished to describe him impersonaUy,
scientifically. " He judges and measures, approves and condemns
altogether by that."
" It is a happy thing then that his tastes should be exquisite."
" It is exquisite, indeed, since it has led him to select you
as his wife. But have you ever seen an exquisite taste
ruffled 1 "
" I hope it may never be my fortune to fail to gratify my
At these words a sudden passion leaped to Ralph's lips. "Ah,
that's wilful, that's unworthy of you ! " he cried. " You were
not meant to be measured in that way — you were meant for
something better than to keep guard over the sensibilities of a
sterile dilettante ! "
Isabel rose quickly and Ralph did the same, so that they stood
for a moment looking at each other as if he had flung down a
defiance or an insult.
*^ You go too far," she murmured.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 183
" I have said what I had on my mind — and I have said it
because I love you ! "
Isabel turned pale : was he too on that tiresome list ) She
had a sudden wish to strike him off. "Ah then, you are not
disinterested ! "
" I love you, but I love without hope," said Ealph, quickly,
forcing a smile, and feeling that in that last declaration he had
expressed more than he intended.
Isabel moved away and stood looking into the sunny stillness
of the garden ; but after a little she turned back to him. " I
am afraid your talk, then, is the wildness of despair. I don't
understand it — ^but it doesn't matter. I am not arguing with
you ; it is impossible that I should ; I have only tried to listen
to you. I am much obliged to you for attempting to explain,"
she said gently, as if the anger with which she had just sprung
up had already subsided. "It is very good of you to try to
warn me, if you are really alarmed. But I won't promise to
think of what you have said ; I shall forget it as soon as possible.
Try and forget it yourself; you have done your duty, and no
man can do more. I can't explain to you what I feel, what I
believe, and I wouldn't if I could." She paused a moment, and
then she went on, with an inconsequence that Ealph observed
even in the midst of his eagerness to discover some symptom of
concession. " I can't enter into your idea of Mr. Osmond ; I
can't do it justice, because I see him in quite another way. He
is not important — ^no, he is not important ; he is a man to whom
importance is supremely indifferent. If that is what you mean
when you call him * small,' then he is as small as you please. I
call that large — ^it's the largest thing I know. I won't pretend
to argue with you about a person I am going to marry," Isabel
repeated. "I am not in the least concerned to defend Mr.
184 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Osmond ; he is not so weak as to need my defence. I should
think it would seem strange, even to yourself, that I should talk
of him so quietly and coldly, as if he were any one else. I would
not talk of him at all, to any one but you ; and you, after what
you have said — I may just answer you once for all. Pray, would
you wish me to make a mercenary marriage — what they call a
marriage of ambition 1 I have only one ambition — ^to be free to
follow out a good feeling. I had others once ; but they have
passed away. Do you complain of Mr. Osmond because he is
not rich 1 That is just what I like him for. I have fortunately
money enough ; I have never felt so thankful for it as to-day.
There have been moments when I should like to go and kneel
down by your father's grave ; he did perhaps a better thing than
he knew when he put it into my power to marry a poor man — a
man who has borne his poverty with such dignity, with such
indifference. Mr. Osmond has never scrambled nor struggled —
he has cared for no worldly prize. If that is to be narrow, if
that is to be selfish, then it*s very well. I am not frightened by
such words, I am not even displeased ; I am only sorry that you
should make a mistake. Others might have done so, but I am
surprised that you should. You might know a gentleman when
you see one — ^you might know a fine mind. Mr. Osmond makes
no mistakes ! He knows everything, he understands everything,
he has the kindest, gentlest, highest spirit. You have got hold
of some false idea ; it's a pity, but I can't help it ; it regards you
more than me." Isabel paused a moment, looking at her cousin
with an eye illuminated by a sentiment which contradicted the
careful calmness of her manner — a mingled sentiment, to which
the angry pain excited by his words and the wounded pride of
having needed to justify a choice of which she felt only the
jiobleness and purity, equally contributed. Though she paused^
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 185
Ralph said nothing ; he saw she had more to say. She was
superb, but she was eager; she was indifferent, but she was
secretly trembling. " What sort of a person should you have
liked me to marry 1 " she asked, suddenly. " You talk about
one's soaring and sailing, but if one marries at all one touches
the earth. One has human feelings and needs, one has a heart
in one's bosom, and one must marry a particular individual.
Your mother has never forgiven me for not having come to a
better understanding with Lord Warburton, and she is horrified
at my contenting myself with a person who has none of Lord
Warburton's great advantages — ^no property, no title, no honours,
no houses, nor lands, nor position, nor reputation, nor brilliant
belongings of any sort. It is the total absence of all these
things that pleases me. Mr. Osmond is simply a man — he is
not a proprietor ! "
Ralph had listened with great attention, as if everything she
said merited deep consideration ; but in reality he was only half
thinking of the things she said, he was for the rest simply
accommodating himself to the weight of his total impression —
the impression of her passionate good faith. She was wrong,
but she believed ; she was deluded, but she was consistent. It
was wonderfully characteristic of her that she had invented a
fine theory about Gilbert Osmond, and loved him, not for what
he really possessed, but for his very poverties dressed out as
honours. Ralph remembered what he had said to his father
about wishing to put it into Isabel's power to gratify her imagin-
ation. He had done so, and the girl had taken full advantage
of the privilege. Poor Ralph felt sick ; he felt ashamed. Isabel
had uttered her last words with a low solemnity of conviction
which virtually terminated the discussion, and she closed it
formally by turning away and walking back to the house.
186 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Ealph walked beside her, and they passed into the court to-
gether and reached the big staircase. Here Ealph stopped, and
Isabel paused, turning on him a face full of a deep elation at
his opposition having made her own conception of her conduct
more clear to her.
" Shall you not come up to breakfast 1 " she asked.
" No ; I want no breakfast, I am not hungry."
" You ought to eat," said the girl ; " you live on air."
" I do, very much, and I shall go back into the garden and
take another mouthful of it. I came thus far simply to say thi&
I said to you last year that if you were to get into trouble I
should feel terribly sold. That's how I feel to-day."
" Do you think I am in trouble 1 "
" One is in trouble when one is in error."
"Yery well," said Isabel; "I shall never complain of my
trouble to you ! " And she moved up the staircase.
Kalph, standing there with his hands in his pockets, followed
her with his eyes; then the lurking chill of the high-walled
court struck him and made him shiver, so that he returned to
the garden, to breakfast on thd Florentine sunshine.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 187
Isabel, when she strolled in the Cascine with her lover, felt
no impulse to tell him that he was not thought well of at the
Palazzo Crescentini The discreet opposition offered to her
marriage hy her aunt and her cousin made on the whole
little impression upon her ; the moral of it was simply that they
disliked Gilbert Osmond. This dislike was not alarming to
Isabel; she scarcely even regretted it; for it served mainly to
throw into higher relief the fact, in every way so honourable, that
she married to please herself. One did other things to please
other people ; one did this for a more personal satisfaction ; and
Isabel's satisfaction was confirmed by her lover's admirable good
conduct. Gilbert Osmond was in love, and he had never
deserved less than during these still, bright days, each of them
numbered, which preceded the fulfilment of his hopes, the harsh
criticism passed upon him by Ealph Touchett. The chief
impression produced upon Isabel's mind by this criticism was
that the passion of love separated its victim terribly from every
one but the loved object. She felt herself disjoined from every
one she had ever known before — from her two sisters, who wrote
to express a dutiful hope that she would be happy, and a sur-
prise, somewhat more vague, at her not having chosen a consort
who was the hero of a richer accumulation of anecdote ; from
188 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Henrietta, who, she" was sure, would come out, too late, on pur-
pose to remonstrate ; from Lord Warburton, who would certainly
console himself, and from Caspar Goodwood, who perhaps would
not ; from her aunt, who had cold, shallow ideas about marriage,
for which she was not sorry to manifest her contempt ; and from
Ralph, whose talk about having great views for her was surely
but a whimsical cover for a personal disappointment. Kalph
apparently wished her not to marry at all — that was what it
really meant — ^because he was amused with the spectacle of her
adventures as a single woman. His disappointment made him ^
say angry things about the man she had preferred even to him :
Isabel flattered herself that she believed Ealph had been angry.
It was the more easy for her to believe this, because, as I say,
she thought on the whole but little about it, and accepted as an
incident of her lot the idea that to prefer Gilbert Osmond as she
preferred him was perforce to break all other ties. She tasted of
the sweets of this preference, and they made her feel that there
was after all something very invidious in being in love ; much
as the sentiment was theoretically approved of. It was the
tragical side of happiness ; one's right was always made of the
wrong of some one else. Gilbert Osmond was not demonstra-
tive ; the consciousness of success, which must now have flamed
high within him, emitted very little smoke for so brilliant a
blaze. Contentment, on his part, never took a vulgar form;
excitement, in the most self-conscious of men, was a kind of
ecstasy of self-controL This disposition, however, made him an
admirable lover; it gave him a constant view of the amorous
character. He never forgot himself, as I say ; and so he never
forgot to be graceful and tender, to wear the appearance of
devoted intention. He was immensely pleased with his young
lady ; Madame Merle had made him a present of incalculable
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 189
value. What could be a finer thing to live with than a high
spirit attuned to softness 1 For would not the softness be all for
one's self, and the strenuousness for society, which admired the
air of superiority 1 What could be a happier gift in a companion
than a quick, fanciful mind, which saved one repetitions, and
reflected one's thought upon a scintillating surface] Osmond
disliked to see his thought reproduced literally — ^that made it
look stale and stupid; he preferred it to be brightened in the
reproduction. His egotism, if egotism it was, had never taken
the crude form of wishing for a dull wife ; this lady's intelligence
was to be a silver plate, not an earthen one — a plate that he
might heap up with ripe fruits, to which it would give a decora-
tive value, so that conversation might become a sort of perpetual
dessert. He found the silvery quaUty in perfection in Isabel;
he could tap her imagination with his knuckle and make it ring.
He knew perfectly, though he had not been told, that the union
found little favour among the girl's relations; but he had always
treated her so completely as an independent person that it
hardly seemed necessary to express regret for the attitude of her
family. Nevertheless, one morning, he made an abrupt allusion
" It's the difiFerence in our fortune they don't like," he said.
" They think I am in love with your money."
" Are you speaking of my aunt — of my cousin ? " Isabel asked.
" How do you know what they think 1 "
"You have not told me that they are pleased, and when I
wrote to Mrs. Touchett the other day she never answered my
note. If they had been delighted I should have learnt it, and
the fact of my being poor and you rich is the most obvious
explanation of their want of delight. But, of course, when a
poor man marries a rich girl he must be prepared for imputations.
190 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
I don't mind them ; I only care for one thing — your thinking
it's all right. I don't care what others think. I have never
cared much, and why should I begin to-day, when I have taken
to myself a compensation for everything ? I won't pretend that
I am sorry you are rich; I am delighted. I delight in every-
thing that is yours — whether it be money or virtue. Money is
a great advantage. It seems to me, however, that I have suffi-
ciently proved that I can get on without it ; I never in my life
tried to earn a penny, and I ought to be less subject to suspicion
than most people. I suppose it is their business to suspect —
that of your own family ; it's proper on the whole they should.
They will like me better some day ; so will you, for that matter.
Meanwhile my business is not to bother, but simply to be thank-
ful for life and love. It has made me better, loving you," he
said on another occasion; "it has made me wiser, and easier,
and brighter. I used to want a great many things before, and
to be angry that I didn't have them. Theoretically, I was
satisfied, as I once told you. I flattered myself that I had
limited my wants. But I was subject to irritation ; I used to
have morbid, sterile, hateful fits of hunger, of desire. Now I
am really satisfied, because I can't think of anything better. It
is just as when one has been trying to spell out a book in the
twilight, and suddenly the lamp comes in. I had been putting
out my eyes over the book of life, and finding nothing to reward
me for my pains ; but now that I can read it properly I see that
it's a delightful story. My dear girl, I can't tell you how life
seems to stretch there before us — ^what a long summer afternoon
awaits us. It's the latter half of an Italian day — with a golden
haze, and the shadows just lengthening, and that divine delicacy
in the light, the air, the landscape, which I have loved all my
life, and which you love to-day. Upon my word, I don't see
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 191
why we shouldn't get on.' We have got what we like — to say-
nothing of having each other. We have the faculty of admir-
ation, and several excellent beliefs. We are not stupid, we are
not heavy, we are not under bonds to any dull limitations. You
are very fresh, and I am well-seasoned. We have got my poor
child to amuse us ; we will try and make up some little life for
her. It is all soft and mellow — it has the Italian colouring."
They made a good many plans, but they left themselves also
a good deal of latitude ; it was a matter of course, however, that
they should live for the present in Italy, It was in Italy that
they had met, Italy had been a party to their first impressions
of each other, and Italy should be a party to their happiness.
Osmond had the attachment of old acquaintance, and Isabel the
stimulus of new, which seemed to assure her a future of beautiful
hours. The desire for unlimited expansion had been succeeded
in her mind by the sense that life was vacant without some
private duty which gathered one's energies to a point. She told
Ealph that she had " seen life " in a year or two, and that she
was already tired, not of life, but of observation. What had
become of aU her ardours, her aspirations, her theories, her high
estimate of her independence, and her incipient conviction that
she should never marry] These things had been absorbed in
a more primitive sentiment — a sentiment which answered all
questions, satisfied all needs, solved all difficulties. It sim-
plified the future at a stroke, it came down from above, like
the light of the stars, and it needed no explanation. There
was explanation enough in the fact that he was her lover, her
own, and that she was able to be of use to him. She could
marry him with a kind of pride; she was not only taking,
He brought Pansy with him two or three times to the Cascine
192 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
— Pansy who was very little taller than a year before, and not
much older. That she would always be a child was the convic-
tion expressed by her father, who held her by the hand when
she was in her sixteenth year, and told her to go and play while
he sat down a while with the pretty lady. Pansy wore a short
dress and a long coat ; her hat always seemed too big for her.
She amused herself with walking off, with quick, short steps, to
the end of the alley, and then walking back with a smile that
seemed an appeal for approbation. Isabel gave her approbation
in abundance, and it was of that demonstrative personal kind
which the child's affectionate nature craved She watched her
development with a kind of amused suspense ; Pansy had already
become a little daughter. She was .treated so completely as a
child that Osmond had not yet explained to her the new relation
in which he stood to the elegant Miss Archer. " She doesn't
know," he said to Isabel ; " she doesn't suspect ; she thinks it
perfectly natural that you and I should come and walk here
together, simply as good friends. There seems to me something
enchantingly innocent in that ; it's the way I like her to be.
"No, I am not a failure, as I used to think ; I have succeeded in
two things. I am to marry the woman I adore, and I have
brought up my child as I wished, in the old way."
He was very fond, in all things, of the " old way ; " that
had struck Isabel as an element in the refinement of his
"It seems to me you will not know whether you have suc-
ceeded until you have told her," she said. ** You must see how
she takes your news. She may be horrified — she may be
" I am not afraid of that ; she is too fond of you on her own
account. I should like to leave her in the dark a little longer —
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 193
to see if it will come into her head .that if we are not engaged
we ought to be."
Isabel was impressed by Osmond's aesthetic relish of Pansy's
innocence — ^her own appreciation of it being more moral. She
was perhaps not the less pleased when he told her a few days
later that he had broken the news to his daughter, who made
such a pretty little speecL " Oh, then I shall have a sister ! "
She was neither surprised nor alarmed; she had not cried, as
" Perhaps she had guessed it," said Isabel.
" Don't say that ; I should be disgusted if I believed that. I
thought it would be just a little shock ; but the way she took it
proves that her good manners are paramount. That is also what
I wished. You shall see for yourself; to-morrow she shall
make you her congratulations in person."
The meeting, on the morrow, took place at the Countess
Gemini's, whither Pansy had been conducted by her father, who
knew that Isabel was to come in the afternoon to return a visit
made her by the Countess on learning that they were to become
sister-in-law. Calling at Casa Touchett, the visitor had not
found Isabel at home; but after our young lady had been
ushered into the Countess's drawing-room. Pansy came in to say
that her aunt would presently appear. Pansy was spending the
day with her aunt, who thought she was of an age when she should
begin to learn how to carry herself in company. It was Isabel's
view that the little girl might have given lessons in deportment
to the elder lady, and nothing could have justified this conviction
more than the manner in which Pansy acquitted herself while
they waited together for the Countess. Her father's decision,
the year before, had finally been to send her back to the convent
to receive the last graces, and Madame Catherine had evidently
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. IBS
Her description of her autit had not been incorrect ; the
Couatees Gemini 'was lesa than ever in a state of repose. She
entered the room with a great deal of eipreaaion, and kissed
Isabel, first on her lipa, and then on each cheek, in the short,
quick manner of a bird drinking. She made Isabel sit down on
the sofa beside her, and looking at onr heroine with a variety of
turns of the head, dehvered herself of a hundred remarks, from
'which I offer the reader but a brief selection.
"If you expect me to congratulate you, I must beg you
to excuse me. I don't suppose you care whether I do or not ; I
believe yon are very proud. But I care myself whether I tell
fibs or not ; I never tell them unless there is something to be
gained, I don't see what there is to be gained with you —
especially as you would not beheve me. I don't make phrases
— I never made a phrase in my life. My fibs are always very
crude. I am very glad, for my own sake, that you are going to
marry Osmond ; but I won't pretend I am glad for yours. You
are very remarkable — youknow that's what people call you; you
are an heiress, and very good-looking and clever, very original ;
so it's a good thii^ to have you in the family. Our famOy is
Tery good, you know ; Osmond will have told yon that ; and my
mother was rather distinguished — she was called the American
Corinne. But we are rather fallen, I think, and perhaps you
will pick us up. I have great confidence in you ; there are ever
BO many thirds I want to talk to you about. I never congratu-
late any girl on marrying ; I think it's the worst thing she can
do. I suppose Fansy oughtn't t-o hear all this ; but that's what
she has come to me for — to acquire the tone of society. There
is no harm in her knowing that it isn't suah a blessing to get
married. When first I got an idea that my brother had
upon you, I thought of writing to yon, to recommend you, jl
196 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
the strongest tenns, not to listen to him. Then I thought it
would he disloyal, and I hate anything of that kind. Besides,
as I say, I was enchanted, for myself; and after all, I am very
selfish. By the way, you won't respect me, and we shall never
be intimate. I should like it, but you won't. Some day, aU the
same, we shall be better friends than you will believe at first.
My husband will come and see you, though, as you probably
know, he is on no sort of terms with Osmond. He is very fond
of going to see pretty women, but I am not afraid of you. In
the first place, I don't care what he does. In the second, you
won't care a straw for him; you will take his measure at a
glance. Some day I will tell you all about him. Do you think
my niece ought to go out of the room 1 Pansy, go and practise
a little in my boudoir."
" Let her stay, please," said IsabeL " I would rather hear
nothing that Pansy may not ! "
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 197
One afternoon, towards dusk, in the autumn of 1876, a young
man of pleasing appearance rang at the door of a small apartment
on the third floor of an old Roman house. On its being opened
he inquired for Madame Merle, whereupon the servant, a neat,
plain woman, with a French face and a lady's maid's manner,
ushered him into a diminutive drawing-room and requested the
favour of his name.
" Mr. Edward Rosier," said the young man, who sat down to
wait till his hostess should appear.
The reader will perhaps not have forgotten that Mr. Rosier
was an ornament of the American circle in Paris, but it may
also be remembered that he sometimes vanished from its horizon.
He had spent a portion of several winters at Pau, and as he was
a gentleman of tolerably inveterate habits he might have con-
tinued for years to pay his annual visit to this charming resort.
In the summer of 1876, however, an incident befell him which
changed the current, not only of his thoughts, but of his pro-
ceedings. He passed a month in the Upper Engadine, and
encountered at St. Moritz a charming young girl. For this
young lady he conceived a peculiar admiration ; she was exactly
the household angel he had long been looking for. He was
never precipitate ; he was nothing if not discreet ; so he forbore
198 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
for the present to declare his passion ; but it seemed to him
when they parted — the young lady to go down into Italy, and
her admirer to proceed to Geneva, where he was under bonds to
join some friends — that he should be very unhappy if he were
not to see her again. The simplest way to do so was to go in
the autumn to Kome, where Miss Osmond was domiciled with
her family. Hosier started on his pilgrimage to the Italian
capital and reached it on the first of November. It was a pleasant
thing to do ; but for the young man there was a strain of the
heroic in the enterprise. He was nervous about the fever, and
November, after all, was rather early in the season. Fortune,
however, favours the brave ; and Mr. Rosier, who took three
grains of quinine every day, had at the end of a month no cause
to deplore his temerity. He had made to a certain extent good
use of his time ; that is, he had perceived that Miss Pansy
Osmond had not a flaw in her composition. She was admirably
finished — she was in excellent style. He thought of her in
amorous meditation a good deal as he might have thought of a
Dresden-china shepherdess. Miss Osmond, indeed, in the bloom
of her juvenility, had a touch of the rococo, which Rosier, whose
taste was predominantly for that manner, could not fail to
appreciate. That he esteemed the productions of comparatively
frivolous periods would have been apparent from the attention
he bestowed upon Madame Merle's drawing-room, which, although
furnished with specimens of every style, was especially rich in
articles of the last two centuries. He had immediately put a
glass into one eye and looked round ; and then — " By Jove !
she has some jolly good things ! " he had murmured to himself.
The room was small, and densely filled with furniture ; it gave
an impression of faded silk and little statuettes which might
totter if one moved. Rosier got up and wandered about with
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 199
his careful tread, bending over the tables charged with knick-
knacks and the cushions embossed with princely arms. When
Madame Merle came in she found him standing before the fire-
place, with his nose very close to the great lace flounce attached
to the damask cover of the mantel He had lifted it delicately,
as if he were smelling it.
" It's old Venetian," she said ; " it*s rather good."
" It's too good for this ; you ought to wear it."
** They tell me you have some better in Paris, in the same
" Ah, but I can't wear mine," said Rosier, smiling.
" I don't see why you shouldn't ! I have better lace than
that to wear."
Hosier's eyes wandered, lingeringly, round the room again.
" You have somevery good things."
" Yes, but I hate them."
" Do you want to get rid of them 1 " the young man asked
" No, it's good to have something to hate ; one works it oflf."
"I love my things," said Rosier, as he sat there smiling.
" But it's not about them — ^nor about yours, that I came to talk
to you." He paused a moment, and then, with greater softness
— " I care more for Miss Osmond' than for all the bibelots in
Europe 1 "
Madame Merle started a little.
" Did you come to tell me that 1 "
" I came to ask your advice."
She looked at him with a little frown, stroking her chin,
" A man in love, you know, doesn't ask advice."
** Why not, if he is in a difl&cult position ? That's often the
case with a man in love. I have been in love before, and I
200 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
know. But never so much as this time — really, never so mucL
I should like particularly to know what you think of my pros-
pects. Fm afraid Mr. Osmond doesn't think me a phcenix."
" Do you wish me to intercede 1 " Madame Merle asked, with
her fine arms folded, and her mouth drawn up to the left.
" If you could say a good word for me, I should be greatly
obliged. There will be no use in my troubling Miss Osmond
unless I have good reason to believe her father will consent."
" You are very considerate ; that's in your favour. But
you assume, in rather an off-hand way, that I think "you a
"You have been very kind to me," said the young man.
" That's why I came."
" I am always kind to people who have good hihdots ; there
is no telling what one may get by it."
And the left-hand comer of Madame Merle's mouth gave
expression to the joke.
Edward Kosier stared and blushed ; his correct features were
suffused with disappointment.
" Ah, I thought you liked me for myself ! "
" I like you very much ; but, if you please, we won't analyse.
Excuse me if I seem patronising; but I think you a perfect
little gentleman. I must tell you, however, that I have not the
marrying of Pansy Osmond."
" I didn't suppose that. But you have seemed to me intimate
with her family, and I thought you might have influence."
Madame Merle was silent a moment.
" Whom do you call her family ] "
" Why, her father ; and — how do you say it in English \ —
"Mr. Osmond is her father, certainly; but his wife can
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 201
scarcely be termed a member of her family. Mrs. Osmond has
nothing to do with marrying her."
" I am sorry for that," said Eosier, with an amiable sigh. " I
think Mrs. Osmond would favour me."
" Very likely — if her husband does not."
Edward Eosier raised his eyebrows.
" Does she take the opposite line from him 1 "
" In everything. They think very differently."
"Well," said Eosier, "I am sorry for that; but it's none of
my business. She is very fond of Pansy."
" Yes, she is very fond of Pansy."
"And Pansy has a great affection for her. She has told me
that she loves her as if she were her own mother."
" You must, after all, have had some very intimate talk with
the poor child," said Madame Merle. " Have you declared your
sentiments 1 "
" Never ! " cried Eosier, lifting his neatly -gloved hand.
** Never, until I have assured myself of those of the parents."
" You always wait for that 1 You have excellent principles ;
your conduct is most estimable."
" I think you are laughing at me," poor Eosier murmured,
dropping back in his chair, and feeling his small moustache.
"I didn't expect that of you, Madame Merle."
She shook her head calmly, like a person who saw things
" You don't do me justice. I think your conduct is in
excellent taste and the best you could adopt. Yes, that's what
" I wouldn't agitate her — only to agitate her ; I love her too
much for that," said Ned Eosier.
**I am glad, after all, that you have told me," Madame
202 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Merle went on. " Leave it to me a little ; I think I can help
" I said you were the person to come to 1 " cried the young
man, with an ingenuous radiance in his face.
" You were very clever," Madame Merle returned, more drily.
" When I say I can help you, I mean once assuming that your
cause is good. Let us think a little whether it is."
"Tm a dear little fellow,** said Eosier, earnestly. "I won't
say I have no faults, but I will say I have no vices."
"All that is negative. What is the positive sidel What
have you got besides your Spanish lace and your Dresden
tea-cups 1 "
" I have got a comfortable little fortune — about forty thousand
francs a year. With the talent that I have for arranging, we
can live beautifully on such an income."
" Beautifully, no. Sufficiently, yes. Even that depends on
where you live."
" Well, in Paris. I would undertake it in Paris."
Madame Merle's mouth rose to the left.
" It wouldn't be splendid ; you would have to make use of the
tea-cups, and they would get broken."
**We don't want to be splendid. K Miss Osmond should
have everything pretty, it would be enough. When one is as
pretty as she, one can afford to be simple. She ought never to
wear anything but muslin," said Eosier, reflectively.
" She would be much obliged to you for that theory."
" It's the correct one, I assure you ; and I am sure she would
enter into it. She understands aU that ; that's why I love her."
" She is a very good little girl, and extremely graceful. But
her father, to the best of my belief, can give her nothing."
Eosier hesitated a moment.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. '203
**I don't in the least desire that he should. But I may
remark, all the same, that he lives like a rich man."
" The money is his wife's ; she brought him a fortune."
" Mrs. Osmond, then, is very fond of her step-daughter ; she
may do something."
**For a love-sick swain you have your eyes about you!"
Madame Merle exclaimed, with a laugh.
"I esteem a dot very much. I can do without it, but I
"Mrs. Osmond," Madame Merle went on, "will probably
prefer to keep her money for her own children."
" Her own children? Surely she has none."
" She may have yet. She had a poor little boy, who died two
years ago, six months after his birtL Others, therefore, may
"I hope they will, if it will make her happy. She is a
Madame Merle was silent a moment.
" Ah, about her there is much to be said. Splendid as you
like ! "We have not exactly made out that you are a parti. The
absence of vices is hardly a source of income."
"Excuse me, I think it may be," said Eosier, with his per-
" You'll be a touching couple, living on your innocence ! "
" I think you underrate me."
" You are not so innocent as that 1 Seriously," said Madame
Merle, " of course forty thousand francs a year and a nice
character are a combination to be considered. I don't say it's
to be jumped at ; but there might be a worse offer. Mr. Osmond
will probably incline to believe he can do better."
"He can do so, perhaps; but what can his daughter do?
204 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
She can't do better than marry the man she loves. For she
does, you know," Hosier added, eagerly.
** She does — ^I know it."
" Ah," cried the young man, " I said you were the person to
" But I don't know how you know it, if you haven't asked
her," Madame Merle went on.
" In such a case there is no need of asking and telling ; as
you say, we are an innocent couple. How did you know
" I who am not innocent % By being very crafty. I/eave it
to me ; I will find out for you."
Rosier got up, and stood smoothing his hat.
" You say that rather coldly. Don't simply find out how it •
is, but try to make it as it should be."
" I will do my best. I will try to make the most of your
" Thank you so very much. Meanwhile, I will say a word to
" Gardez-vou8 en him ! " And Madame Merle rose, rapidly*
" Don't set her going, or you'll spoil everything."
Rosier gazed into his hat ; he wondered whether his hostess
had been after all the right person to come to.
"I don't think I understand you. I am an old friend of
Mrs. Osmond, and I think she would like me to succeed."
" Be an old friend as much as you like ; the more old friends
she has the better, for she doesn't get on very well with some of
her new. But don't for the present try to make her take up the
cudgels for you. Her husband may have other views, and, as &
person who wishes her well, I advise you not to multiply points
of difference between them."
THE POKTKAIT OF A LADY. 205
Poor Eosier's face assumed an expression of alarm ; a suit for
the hand of Pansy Osmond was even a more complicated business
than his taste for proper transitions had allowed. But the ex-
treme good sense which he concealed under a surface suggesting
sprigged porcelain, came to his assistance.
"I don't see that I am bound to consider Mr. Osmond so
much ! " he exclaimed.
" No, but you should consider her. You say you are an old
friend. Would you make her suffer ? "
" :N'ot for the world."
" Then be very careful, and let the matter alone until I have
taken a few soundings."
"Let the matter alone, dear Madame Merle 1 Remember
that I am in love."
" Oh, you won't bum up. Why did you come to me, if. you
are not to heed what I say 1 "
**You are very kind; I will be very good," the young man
promised. *' But I am afraid Mr. Osmond is rather difficult,"
he added, in his mild voice, as he went to the door.
Madame Merle gave a light laugh.
" It has been said before. But his wife is not easy either."
" Ah, she's a splendid woman ! " Ned Rosier repeated, passing
He resolved that his conduct should be worthy of a young
man who was already a model of discretion ; but he saw nothing
in any pledge he had given Madame Merle that made it im-
proper he should keep himself in spirits by an occasional visit to
Miss Osmond's home. He reflected constantly on what Madame
Merle had said to him, and turned over in his mind the impres-
sion of her somewhat peculiar manner. He had gone to her de
confiancey as they said in Paris ; but it was possible that he had
206 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
been precipitate. He found difficulty in thinking of himself as
rash — he had. incurred this reproach so rarely ; but it certainly
was true that he had known Madame Merle only for the last
month, and that his thinking her a delightful woman was not,
when one came to look into it, a reason for assuming that she
would be eager to push Pansy Osmond into his arms — gracefully
arranged as these members might be to receive her. Beyond
this, Madame Merle had been very gracious to him, and she was
a person of consideration among the girl's people, where she had
a rather striking appearance (Rosier had more than once won-
dered how she managed it), of being intimate without being
familiar. But possibly he had exaggerated these advantages.
There was no particular reason why she should take trouble for
him ; a charming woman was charming to every one, and Rosier
felt rather like a fool when he thought of his appealing to
Madame Merle on the ground that she had distinguished hinu
Very likely — though she had appeared to say it in joke — she
was really only thinking of his bibelots. Had it come into her
head that he might offer her two or three of the gems of his col-
lection 1 If she would only help him to marry Miss Osmond,
he would present her with his whole museum. He could hardly
say so to her outright ; it would seem too gross a bribe. But he
should like her to believe it.
It was with these thoughts that he went again to Mrs.
Osmond's, Mrs. Osmond having an " evening " — she had taken
the Thursday of each week — when his presence could be
accounted for on general principles of civility. The object of
Mr. Hosier's well-regulated affection dwelt in a high house in the
very heart of Rome ; a dark and massive structure, overlooking
a sunny piazzetta in the neighbourhood of the Famese Palace.
In a palace, too, little Pansy lived — a palace in Roman parlance^
THE PORTRAIT OP A LADY. 207
but a dungeon to poor Eosier's apprehensive mind. It seemed
to him of evil omen that the young lady he wished to marry, and
whose fastidious father he doubted of his ability to conciliate,
should be immured in a kind of domestic fortress, which bore
a stern old Eoman name, which smelt of historic deeds, of crime
and craft and violence, which was mentioned in " Murray " and
visited by tourists who looked disappointed and depressed, and
which had frescoes by Caravaggio in the piano nohile and a row
of mutilated statues and dusty urns in the wide, nobly-arched
loggia overlooking the damp court where a fountain gushed
out of a mossy niche. In a less preoccupied frame of mind he
could have done justice to the Palazzo Eoccanera ; he could have
entered into the sentiment of Mrs. Osmond, who had once told
him that on settling themselves in Eome she and her husband
chose this habitation for the love of local colour. It had local
colour enough, and though he knew less about architecture than
about Limoges enamel, he could see that the proportions of the
windows, and even the details of the cornice, had quite the
grand aii*. But Eosier was haunted by the conviction that at
picturesque periods young girls had been shut up there to keep
them from their true loves, and, under the threat of being
thrown into convents, had been forced into unholy marriages.
There was one point, however, to which he always did justice
when- once he found himself in Mrs. Osmond's warm, rich-look-
ing reception-rooms, which were on the second floor. He
acknowledged that these people were very strong in bibelots. It
was a taste of Osmond's own — not at all of hers ; this she had
told him the first time he came to the house, when, after asking
himself for a quarter of an hour whether they had better things
than he, he was obliged to admit that they had, very much, and
vanquished his envy, as a gentleman should, to the point of
208 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
expressing to his hostess his pure admiration of her treasures.
He learned from Mrs. Osmond that her husband had made a
large collection before their marriage, and that, though he had
obtained a number of fine pieces within the last three years, he
had got his best things at a time when he had not the advantage
of her advice. Eosier interpreted this information according to
principles of his own. For *' advice" read "money," he said
to himself ; and the fact that Gilbert Osmond had landed his
great prizes during his impecunious season, confirmed his most
cherished doctrine — the doctrine that a collector may freely be
poor if he be only patient. In general, when Eosier presented
himself on a Thursday evening, his first glance was bestowed
upon the walls of the room; there were three or four objects
that his eyes really yearned for. But after his talk with Madame
Merle he felt the extreme seriousness of his position ; and now
when he came in, he looked about for the daughter of the house
with such eagerness as might be permitted to a gentleman who
always crossed a threshold with an optimistic snule.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 209
Pansy was not in the first of the rooms, a large apartment
with a concave ceiling and walls covered with old red damask ;
it was here that Mrs. Osmond usually sat — though she was not
in her usually customary place to-night — and that a circle of
more especial intimates gathered ahout the fire. The room was
warm, with a sort of subdued brightness ; it contained the larger
things, and — almost always — an odour of flowers. Pansy on
this occasion was presumably in the chamber beyond, the resort
of younger visitors, where tea was served. Osmond stood before
the chimney, leaning back, with his hands behind him ; he had
one foot up and was warming the sole. Half-a-dozen people,
scattered near him, were talking together ; but he was not in the
conversation ; his eyes were fixed, abstractedly. Rosier, coming
in unannounced, failed to attract his attention ; but the young
man, who was very punctilious, though he was even exception-
ally conscious that it was the wife, not the husband, he had
come to see, went up to shake hands with him. Osmond put
out his left hand, without changing his attitude.
" How d'ye do 1 My wife's somewhere about."
" Never fear ; I shall find her," said Rosier, cheerfully.
Osmond stood looking at him ; he had never before felt the
keenness of this gentleman's eyes. " Madame Merle has told
VOL. II. p
210 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
him, and he doesn't like it," Rosier said to himseK. He had
hoped Madame Merle would he there ; hut she was not within
sight ; perhaps she was in one of the other rooms, or would come
later. He had never especially delighted in Gilhert Osmond ;
he had a fancy that he gave himself aii*s. But Rosier was not
quickly resentful, and where pohteness was concerned lie had
an inveterate wish to he in the right. He looked round him,
smiling, and then, in a moment, he said —
" I saw a jolly good piece of Capo di Monte to-day."
Osmond answered nothing at first; hut presently, while he
warmed his hoot-sole, " I don't care a fig for Capo di Monte ! "
" I hope you are not losing your interest 1 "
" In old pots and plates ? Yes, I am losing my interest."
Rosier for a moment forgot the dehcacy of his position.
" You are not thinking of parting with a — a piece or
two ? "
" No, I am not thinking of parting with anything at all, Mr.
Rosier," said Osmond, with his eyes still on the eyes of his
" Ah, y9U want to keep, hut not to add," Rosier remarked,
" Exactly. I have nothing that I wish to match."
Poor Rosier was aware that he had hlushed, and he was dis-
tressed at his want of assurance. " Ah, well, I have I " was all
that he could murmur; and he knew that his murmur was
partly lost as he turned away. He took his course to the adjoiib-
ing room, and met Mrs. Osmond coming out of the deep door-
way. She was dressed in hlack velvet; she looked brilliant
and nohle. We know what Mr. Rosier thought of her, and the
terms in which, to Madame Merle, he had expressed his admir-
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 211
ation. Like his appreciation of her dear little step-daughter, it
was based partly on his line sense of the plastic ; but also on a
relish for a more impalpable sort of merit — ^that merit of a bright
spirit, which Eosier's devotion to brittle wares had not made
him cease to regard as a quality. Mrs. Osmond, at present,
might well have gratified such tastes. The years had touched
her only to enrich her; the flower of her youth had not faded, it
only hung more quietly on its stem. She had lost something of
that quick eagerness to which her husband had privately taken
exception — she had more the air of being able to wait. Now, at
all events, framed in the gilded doorway, she struck our young
man as the picture of a gracious lady.
" You see I am very regular," he said. " But who should be
if I am not ? "
" Yes, I have known you longer than any one here. But we
must not indulge in tender reminiscences. I want to introduce
you to a young lady."
"Ah, please, what young ladjV* Eosier was immensely
obliging ; but this was not what he had come for.
" She sits there by the fire in pink, and has no one to speak
Eosier hesitated a moment.
" Can't Mr. Osmond speak to her 1 He is within six feet of
Mrs. Osmond also hesitated.
" She is not very lively, and he doesn't like dull people."
" But she is good enough for me ? Ah now, that is hard."
" I only mean that you have ideas for two. And then you
are so obliging."
" So is your husband."
"i^o, he is not — to me," And Mrs. Osmond smiled vaguely.
212 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
*' That's a sign he should be doubly so to other women."
">So I tell him," said Mrs. Osmond, still smiling.
" You see I want some tea," Kosier went on, looking wistfully
"That's perfect. Go and give some to my young lady."
" Very good ; but after that I will abandon her to her fate.
The simple truth is that I am dying to have a little talk with
" Ah," said Isabel, turning away, " I can't help you there 1 "
Five minutes later, while he handed a tea-cup to the young
lady in pink, whom he had conducted into the other room, he
wondered whether, in making to Mrs. Osmond the profession I
have just quoted, he had broken the spirit of his promise to
Madame Merle. Such a question was capable of occupying this
young man's mind for a considerable time. At last, however,
he became — comparatively speaking — reckless, and cared Httle
what promises he might break. The fate to which he had
threatened to abandon the young lady in pink proved to be none
so terrible ; for Pansy Osmond, who had given him the tea for
his companion — Pansy was as fond as ever of making tea —
presently came and talked to her. Into this mild colloquy
Edward Eosier entered little ; he sat by moodily, watching his
small sweetheart. If we look at her now through his eyes, we
shall at first not see much to remind us of the obedient little
girl who, at Florence, three years before, was sent to walk short
distances in the Cascine while her father and Miss Archer talked
together of matters sacred to elder people. But after a moment
we shall perceive that if at nineteen Pansy has become a young
lady, she does not really fill out the part ; that if she has grown
very pretty, she lacks in a deplorable degree the quality known
and esteemed in the appearance of females as style j and that if
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 213
she is dressed with great freshness, she wears her smart attire
with an undisguised appearance of saving it — very much as if it
were lent her for the occasion. Edward Eosier, it would seem,
would have been just the man to note these defects ; and in
point of fact there was not a quality of this young lady, of any
sort, that he had not noted. Only he called her qualities by
names of his own— some of which indeed were happy enough.
" No, she is unique — she is absolutely unique," he used to say
to himself ; and you may be sure that not for an instant would
he have admitted to you that she was wanting in style. Style 1
Why, she had the style of a little princess ; if you couldn't see
it you had no eye. It was not modem, it was not conscious, it
would produce no impression in Broadway ; the small, serious
damsel, in her stiff little dress, only looked like an Infanta of
Velasquez. This was enough for Edward Eosier, who thought
her delightfully old-fashioned. Her anxious eyes, her charming
lips, her slip of a figure, were as touching as a childish prayer.
He had now an acute desire to know just to what point she
liked him — a desire which made him fidget as he sat in his
chair. It made him feel hot, so that he had to pat his forehead
with his handkerchief; he had never been so uncomfortable.
She was such a perfect jeune fille ; and one couldn't make of a
jeune fille the inquiry necessary for throwing light on such a
point. A jeune fille was what Eosier had always dreamed of —
z, jeune fille who should yet not be French, for he had felt that
this nationality would complicate the question. He was sure
that Pansy had never looked at a newspaper, and that, in the
way of novels, if she had read Sir Walter Scott it was the very
most. An American jeune fille ; what would be better than
that % She would be frank and gay, and yet would not have
walked alone, nor have received letters from men, nor have been
214 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
taken to the theatre to see the comedy of manners. Kosier
could not deny that, as the matter stood, it would be a breach
of hospitality to appeal directly to this unsophisticated creature »
but he was now in imminent danger of asking himself whether
hospitality were the most sacred thing in the world. Was not
the sentiment that he entertained for Miss Osmond of infinitely
greater importance] Of greater importance to him — yes; but
not probably to the master of the house. There was one com-
fort ; even if this gentleman had been placed on his guard by
Madame Merle, he would not have extended the warning to
Pansy; it would not have been part of his policy to let her
know that a prepossessing young man was in love with her.
But he loas in love with her, the prepossessing young man ; and
all these restrictions of circumstance had ended by irritating
him. What had Gilbert Osmond meant by giving him two
fingers of his left hand 1 If Osmond was rude, surely he himseK
might be bold. He felt extremely bold after the dull girl in
pink had responded to the call of her mother, who came in to
say, with a significant simper at Eosier, that she must carry her
off to other triumphs. The mother and daughter departed
together, and now it depended only upon him that he should
be virtually alone with Pansy. He had never been alone with
her before ; he had never been alone with a jeune fille. It was
a great moment ; poor Kosier began to pat his forehead again.
There was another room, beyond the one in which they stood —
a small room which had been thrown open and lighted, but,
the company not being numerous, had remained empty all the
evening. It was empty yet ; it was upholstered in pale yellow ;
there were several lamps ; through the open door it*looked very
pretty. Eosier stood a moment, gazing through this aperture ;
he was afraid that Pansy would run away, and felt almost
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 215
capable of stretching out a hand to detain her. But she lingered
where the young lady in pink had left them, making no motion
to join a knot of visitors on the other side of the room. For a
moment it occurred to him that she was frightened — too frightened
perhaps to move ; but a glance assured him that she was not,
and then he reflected that she was too innocent, indeed, for
that. After a moment's supreme hesitation he asked her
whether he might go and look at the yellow room, which seemed
so attractive yet so virginal He had been there already with
Osmond, to inspect the furniture, which was of the First
French Empire, and especially to admire the clock (which
he did not really admire), an immense classic structure of that
period. He therefore felt that he had now begun to
"Certainly^, you may go," said Pansy; "and if you like, I
will show you.** She was not in the least frightened.
"That's just what I hoped you would say; you are so very
kind,** Rosier murmured.
They went in together ; Rosier really thought the room very
ugly, and it seemed cold. The same idea appeared to have
" It's not for winter evenings ; it's more for summer," she
said. " It's papa's taste ; he has so much."
He had a good deal. Rosier thought ; but some of it was bad.
He looked about him ; he hardly knew what to say in such a
situation. "Doesn't Mrs. Osmond care how her rooms are
done 1 Has she no taste 1 " he asked.
"Oh yes, a great deal; but it's more for literature," said
Pansy — " and for conversation. But papa cares also for those
things : I think he knows everything."
Rosier was silent a moment. " There is one thing I am sure
216 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
he knows ! " lie broke out presently. " He knows that when I
come here it is, with all respect to him, with all respect to Mrs.
Osmond, who is so charming — it is really," said the young man,
" to see you ! "
"To see mel** asked Pansy, raising her vaguely-troubled
"To see you; that's what I come for," Eosier repeated,
feeling the intoxication of a rupture with authority. Pansy
stood looking at him, simply, intently, openly; a blush was
not needed to make her face more modest.
" I thought it was for that," she said.
" And it was not disagreeable to youl "
"I couldn't tell; I didn't know. You never told me," said
" I was afraid of offending you."
" You don't offend me," the young girl murmured, smiling as
if an angel had kissed her.
"You like me then, Pansy 1" Rosier asked, very, gently,
feeling very happy.
" Yes— I Hke you."
They had walked to the chimney-piece, where the big cold
Empire clock was perched ; they were well within the room,
and beyond observation from without. The tone in which she
had said these four words seemed to him the very breath of
nature, and his only answer could be to take her hand and hold
it a moment. Then he raised it to his lips. She submitted,
still with her pure, trusting smile, in which there was some-
thing ineffably passive. She liked him — she had liked him all
the while ; now anything might happen ! She was ready — she
had been ready always, waiting for him to speak. If he had
not spoken she would have waited for ever ; but when the word
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 217
came she dropped like the peach from the shaken tree. Eosier
felt that if he should draw her towards him and hold her to his
heart, she would submit without a murmur, she would rest there
without a question. It was true that this would be a rash
experiment in a yellow Empire salottino. She had known it
was for her he came ; and yet like what a perfect little lady she
had carried it off !
" You are very dear to me," he murmured, trying to believe
that there was after all such a thing as hospitality.
She looked a moment at her hand, where he had kissed it.
" Did you say that papa knows 1 "
" You told me just now he knows everything."
" I think you must make sure," said Pansy.
"Ah, my dear, when once I am sure of you!" Eosier mur-
mured in her ear, while she turned back to the other rooms
with a little air of consistency which seemed to imply that their
appeal should be immediate.
The other rooms meanwhile had become conscious of the
arrival of Madame Merle, who, wherever she went, produced an
impression when she entered. How she did it the most attentive
spectator could not have told you ; for she neither spoke loud,
nor laughed profusely, nor moved rapidly, nor dressed with
splendour, nor appealed in any appreciable manner to the
audience. Large, fair, smiling, serene, there was something in
her very tranquillity that diffused itself, and when people looked
round it was because of a sudden quiet. On this occasion she
had done the quietest thing she could do ; after embracing Mrs.
Osmond, which was more striking, she had sat down on a small
sofa to commune with the master of the house. There was a
brief exchange of commonplaces between these two — they always
paid, in public, a certain formal tribute to the commonplace —
218 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
and then 'SlsA&me ^lerle, whose eyes had been wanderings asked
if little Mr. Hosier had come this eyening.
^He came nearly an hour ago — ^bot he has disappeared,"
" And where is Pansy f "
" In the other room. There are seyeral people there."
" He is probably among them,'' said Madame Merle.
" Do you wish to see hini ] " Osmond asked, in a ppovokingly
Madame Merle looked at him a moment ; she knew his tones
to the eighth of a note. " Yes, I should like to say to him that
I have told you what he wants, and that it interests you but
" Don't tell him that, he wOl try to interest me more — ^which
is exactly what I don't want. Tell hini I hate his proposaL"
" But you don't hate it."
" It doesn't signify : I don't love it. I let him see that,
myself, this evening; I was rude to him on purpose. That
sort of thing is a great bore. There is no hurry."
" I will tell him that you will take time and think it over."
" No, don't do that. He will hang on."
" If I discourage him he will do the same."
" Yes, but in the one case he will try and talk and explain ;
which would be exceedingly tiresome. In the other lie will
probably hold his tongue and go in for some deeper game.
That will leave me quiet. I hate talking with a donkey."
'* Is that what you call poor Mr. Kosier 1 "
" Oh, he's, enervating, with his eternal majolica."
Madame Merle. dropped her eyes, with a faint smila ''He's
a gentleman, he has a charming temper ; and, after all, an income
of forty thousand francs "
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 219
"It's misery — genteel misery," Osmond broke in. *'It's not
what I have dreamed of for Pansy."
"Very good, then. He has promised me not to speak
" Do you believe him 1 *' Osmond asked, absent-mindedly.
" Perfectly. Pansy has thought a great deal about him ; but
I don't suppose you think that matters."
" I don't think it matters at all ; but neither do I believe she
has thought about him."
"That opinion is more convenient," said Madame Merle,
" Has she told you that she is in love with him 1 "
"For what do you take herl And for what do you take
me 1 " Madame Merle added in a moment.
Osmond had raised his foot and was resting his slim ankle
on the other knee ; he clasped his ankle in his hand, familiarly,
and gazed a while before him. "This kind of thing doesn't
find me unprepared. It's what I educated her for. It was all
for this — that when such a case should come up she should do
what I prefer."
" I am not afraid that she will not do it."
" Well then, where is the hitch?"
" I don't see any. But all the same, I recommend you not
to get rid of Mr. Eosier. Keep him on hand, he may be
" I can't keep him. Do it yourself."
" Very good ; I will put him into a corner and allow him so
much a day." Madame Merle had, for the most part, while
they talked, been glancing about her ; it was her habit, in this
situation, just as it was her habit to interpose a good many
blank-looking pauses. A long pause followed the last words I
220 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
have quoted ; and before it was broken again, she saw Pansy
come out of the adjoining room, followed by Edward Rosier.
Pansy advanced a few steps and then stopped and stood looking
at Madame Merle and at her father.
"He has spoken to her," Madame Merle said, simply, to
Her companion never turned his head. " So much for youi
belief in his promises. He ought to be horsewhipped."
" He intends to confess, poor little man ! "
Osmojid got up; he had now taken a sharp look at his
daughter. " It doesn't matter," he murmured, 'turning away.
Pansy after a moment came up to Madame Merle with her
little manner of unfamiliar politeness. This lady's reception of
her was not more intimate ; she simply, as she rose from the
sofa, gave her a friendly smile.
" You are^very late," said the young girl, gently.
" My dear child, I am never later than I intend to be."
Madame Merle had not got up to be gracious to Pansy ; she
moved towards Edward Rosier. He came to meet her, and,
very quickly, as if to get it off his mind — " I have spoken to
her ! " he whispered.
" I know it, Mr. Rosier."
"Did she tell you 1"
"Yes, she told me. Behave properly for the rest of the
evening, and come and see me to-morrow at a quarter past five."
She was severe, and in the manner in which she turned her
back to him there was a degree of contempt which caused him
to mutter a decent imprecation.
He had no intention of speaking to Osmond ; it was neither
the time nor the place. But he instinctively wandered towards
Isabel, who sat talking with an old lady. He sat down on the
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 221
other side of her ; the old lady was an Italian, and Eosier took
for granted that she understood no English.
" You said just now you wouldn't help me," he began, to
Mrs. Osmond. "Perhaps you will feel differently when you
know — when you know "
He hesitated a little.
" When I know what 1 " Isabel asked, gently.
" That she is aU right."
" What do you mean by that 1 "
" Well, that we have come to an understanding."
" She is all wrong," said Isabel. " It won't do."
Poor Eosier gazed at her half-pleadingly, half-angrily ; a
sudden flush testified to his sense of injury.
"I have never been treated so," he said. "What is there
against me, after aU 1 That is not the way I am usually con-
sidered. I could have married twenty times."
"It's a pity you didn't. I don't mean twenty times, but
once, comfortably," Isabel added, smiling kindly. "You are
not rich enough for Pansy."
" She doesn't care a straw for one's money."
" No, but her father does."
" Ah yes, he has proved that ! " cried the young man.
Isabel got up, turning away from him, leaving her old lady,
without saying anything ; and he occupied himself for the next
ten minutes in pretending to look at Gilbert Osmond's collection
of miniatures, which were neatly arranged on a series of small
velvet screens. But he looked without seeing; his cheek
burned ; he was too full of his sense of injury. It was certain
that he had never been treated that way before ; he was not
used to being thought not good enough. He knew how good he
was, and if such a fallacy had not been so pernicious he could
222 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Jbave laughed at it. He looked about again for Pansy, bat she
had disappeared, and his main desire was now to get out of the
house. Before doing so he spoke to Isabel again ; it was not
agreeable to him to reflect that he had just said a rude thing to
her — the only point that would now justify a low view of him.
" I spoke of Mr. Osmond as I shouldn't have done, a while
ago," he said. " But you must remember my situation."
" I don't remember what you said," she answered, coldly.
" Ah, you are offended, and now you will never help me.
She was silent an instant, and then, with a change of tone —
" It's not that I won't ; I simply can't ! " Her manner was
" If you could — just a little," said Rosier,' " I would never
again speak of your husband save as an angeL"
" The inducement is great," said Isabel gravely — ^inscrutably,
as he afterwards, to himself, called it; and she gave him,
straight in the eyes, a look which was also inscrutable. It
made him remember, somehow, that he had known her as a
child; and yet it was keener than he liked, and lie took
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 223
He went to see Madame Mede on the morrow, and to liis
sraiprise she let him off rather easily. But she made him
promise that he would stop there until something should have
heen decided. Mr. Osmond had had higher expectations; it
was very true that as he had no intention of giving his daughter
a portion, such expectations were open to criticism, or even, if
one would, to ridicule. But she would advise Mr. Eosier not to
take that tone ; if he would possess his soul in patience he might
arrive ^at his felicity. Mr. Osmond was not favourable to his
suit, hut it would not he a miracle if he should gradually come
round. Pansy would never defy her father, he might depend
upon that, so nothing was to he gained by precipitation. Mr.
Osmond needed to accustom his mind to an offer of a sort that
he had not hitherto entertained, and this result must come of
itself — it was useless to try to force it. Kosier remarked that
his own situation would be in the mean while the most uncom-
fortable in the world, and Madame Merle assured him that she
felt for him. But, as she justly declared, one couldn't have
everything one wanted ; she had learned that lesson for herself.
There would be no use in his writing to Gilbert Osmond, who
had charged lier to tell him as much. He wished the matter
dropped for a few weeks, and would himself write when he
224 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
should have anything to communicate which it would please
Mr. Hosier to hear.
"He doesn't like your having spoken to Pansy. Ah, he
doesn't like it at all/' said Madame Merle.
" I am perfectly willing to give him a chance to tell me so ! "
» " K you do that he will tell you more than you care to hear.
Go to the house, for the next month, as little as possible, and
leave the rest to me."
" As little as possible 1 Who is to measure that 1 "
" Let me measure it. Go on Thursday evenings with the rest
of the world ; but don't go at all at odd times, and don't fret
about Pansy. I will see that she understands everything. She's
a calm little nature ; she will take it quietly."
. Edward Eosier fretted about Pansy a good deal, but he did as
he was advised, and waited for another^Thursday evening before
returning to the Palazzo Eoccanera. There had been a party at
dinner, so that although he went early the company was already
tolerably numerous. Osmond, as usual, was in the first room,
near the fire, staring straight at the door, so that, not to be
distinctly uncivil, Eosier had to go and speak to him.
" I am glad that you can take a hint," Pansy's father said^
slightly closing his keen, conscious eye.
^^ I take no hints. But I took a message, as I supposed it
« You took it 1 Where did you take it 1 "
[ It seemed to poor Eosier that he was being insulted, and he
waited a moment, asking himseK how much a true lover ought
to submit to.
" Madame Merle gave me, as I understood it, a message from
you — to the eflfect that you declined to give me the opportunity
I desire — the opportunity to explain my wishes to you."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 226
Hosier flattered himself that he spoke rather sternly.
" I don't see what Madame Merle has to do with it. Why
did you apply to Madame Merle 1 "
"I asked her for an opinion — for nothing more. I did so
because she had seemed to me to know you very well"
" She doesn't know me so well as she thinks," said Osmond.
*' I am sorry for that, because she has given me some little
ground for hope."
Osmond stared into the Are for a moment.
*' I set a great price on my daughter."
" You can't set a higher one than I do. Don't I prove it by
wiahing to marry her 1"
" I wish to marry her very well," Osmond went on, with a
dry impertinence which, in another mood, poor Rosier would
" Of course I pretend that she would marry well in marrying
me. She couldn't marry a man who loves her more ; or whom,
I may venture to add, she loves more."
" I am not bound to accept your theories as to whom my
daughter loves," Osmond said, looking up with a quick, cold
" I am not theorising. Your daughter has spoken."
"Not to me," Osmond continued, bending forward a little
and dropping his eyes to his boot-toes.
^ I have her promise, sir ! " cried Rosier, with the'sharpness of
As their voices had been pitched very low before, such a note
attracted some attention from the company. Osmond waited
till this little movement had subsided, then he said very
" I think she has no recollection of having given it."
VOL. n. q
226 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
They had been standing with their faces to the fire, and after
he had uttered these last words Osmond turned round again to
the room. Before Eosier had time to rejoin he perceived that a
gentleman — a stranger — ^had just come in, unannounced, accord-
ing to the Eoman custom, and was about to present himself to
the master of the house. The latter smiled blandly, but some-
what blankly; the visitor was a handsome man, with a large,
fair beard — evidently an Englishman.
"You apparently don't recognise me," he said, with a smile
that expressed more than Osmond's.
" Ah yes, now I do ; I expected so little to see you."
Eosier departed, and went in direct pursuit of Pansy. He
sought her, as usual, in the neighbouring room, but lie again
encountered Mrs. Osmond in his path. He gave this gracious
lady no greeting — he was too righteously indignant ; but said to
her crudely —
"Your husband is awfully cold-blooded."
She gave the same mystical smile that he had noticed
" You can't expect every one to be as hot as yourself."
** I don't pretend to be cold, but I am cooL What has he
been doing to his daughter 1 "
" I have no idea."
"Don't you take any interest?" Eosier demanded, feeling
that she too was irritating.
For a moment she answered nothing. Then^—
" No ! " she said abruptly, and with a quickened light in her
eye which directly contradicted the word.
"Excuse me if I don't believe that Where is Miss Osmond 1"
" In the comer, making tea. Please leave her there."
Eosier instantly discovered the young girl, who had been
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 227
Mdden by intervening groups. He watched her, but her own
attention was entirely given to her occupation.
" What on earth has he done to her 1 " he asked again implor-
ingly. "He declares to me that she has given me up."
"She has not given you up," Isabel said, in a low tone,
without looking at him.
" Ah, thank you for that ! Now I will leave her alone as
long as you think proper ! "
He had hardly spoken when he saw her change colour, and
became aware that Osmond was coming towards her, accompanied
by the gentleman who had just entered. He thought the latter,
in spite of the advantage of good looks and evident social ex-
perience, was a little embarrassed.
" Isabel," said Osmond, " I bring you an old friend."
Mrs. Osmond's face, though it wore a smile, was, like her
old friend's, not perfectly confident. " I am very happy to see
Lord Warburton," she said. Eosier turned away, and now that
his talk *with her had been interrupted, felt absolved from the
little pledge he had just taken. He had a quick impression
that Mrs. Osmond would not notice what he did.
To do him justice, Isabel for some time quite ceased to observe
him. She had been startled; she hardly knew whether she
were glad or not. Lord Warburton, however, now that he was
fece to face with her, was plainly very well pleased ; his frank
grey eye expressed a deep, if still somewhat shy, satisfaction.
He was larger, stouter than of yore, and he looked older; he
stood there very solidly and sensibly.
" I suppose you didn't expect to see me," he said ; " I have
only just arrived. Literally, I only got here this evening. You
see I have lost no time in coming to pay you my respects ; I
knew you were at home on Thursdays."
228 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" You see the fame of your Thursdays has spread to England,"
Osmond remarked, smiling, to his wife.
" It is very kind of Lord Warburton to come so soon ; we are
greatly flattered," Isabel said.
" Ah well, it's better than stopping in one of those horrible
inns," Osmond went on.
" The hotel seems very good ; I think it is the same one where
I saw you four years ago. You know it was here in Eome that
we last met ; it is a long time ago. Do you remember where I
bade you good-bye 1 It was in the Capitol, in the first room."
"I remember that myself," said Osmond; "I was there at
" Yes, I remember that you were there. I was very sorry to
leave Kome — so sorry that, somehow or other, it became a
melancholy sort of memory, and I have never cared to come
back till to-day. But I knew you were living here, and I assure
you I have often thought of you. It must be a charming place
to live in," said Lord Warburton, brightly, looking about hiio.
" We should have been glad to see you at any time," Osmond
remarked with propriety.
"Thank you very mucL I haven't been out of England
since then. Till a month ago, I really supposed my travels
"I have heard of you from time to time," said Isabel, who
had now completely recovered her self-possession.
" I hope you have heard no harm. My life has been a blank."
*' Like the good reigns in history," Osmond suggested. He
appeared to think his duties as a host had now terminated, he
had performed them very conscientiously. Nothing could have,
been more adequate, more nicely measured, than his courtesy to
his wife's old friend. It was punctilious, it was explicit, it was
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 229
everything but natural — a deficiency which Lord Warburton,
who, himself, had on the whole a good deal of nature, may be
supposed to have perceived. ** I will leave you and Mrs. Osmond
together," he added. " You have reminiscences into which I
" I am afraid you lose a good deal ! " said Lord Warburton,
in a tone which perhaps betrayed over-much Ms appreciation of
Osmond's generosity. He stood a moment, looking at Isabel
with an eye that gradually became more serious. ** I am really
very glad to see you."
" It is very pleasant. You are very kind."
" Do you know that you are changed — a little 1 "
Isabel hesitated a moment.
" Yes — a good deal."
" I don't mean for the worse, of course ; and yet how can I
say for the better] "
" I think I shall have no scruple in saying that to you," said
" Ah well, for me — ^it's a long time. It would be a pity that
there shouldn't be something to show for it."
They sat down, and Isabel asked him about his sisters, with
other inquiries of a somewhat perfunctory kind. He answered
her questions as if they interested him, and in a few moments
she saw — or believed she saw — that he would prove a more
comfortable companion than of yore. Time had breathed upon
his heart, and without chilling this organ, had freely ventilated
it. Isabel felt her usual esteem for Time rise at a bound. Lord
Warburton's manner was certainly that of a contented man who
would rather like one to know it.
" There is something I must tell you without more delay," he
said. " I have brought Ealph Touchett with me."
230 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" Brouglit him with you 1 " IsabeFs surprise was great.
" He is at. the hotel ; he was too tired to come out, and has
gone to bed."
" I will go and see him," said Isabel, quickly.
" That is exactly what I hoped you would do. I had an idea
that you hadn't seen much of him since your marriage — that in
fact your relations were a — a little more f ormaL That's why I
hesitated — like an awkward Englishman."
" I am as fond of Ealph as ever," Isabel answered. " But why
has he come to Eome 1 "
The declaration was very gentle ; the question a little sharp.
" Because he is very far gone, Mrs. Osmond."
" Rome, then, is no place for him- I heard from him that he
had determined to give up his custom of wintering abroad, and
remain in England, indoors, in what he called an artificial
" Poor fellow, he doesn't succeed with the artificial ! I went
to see him three weeks ago, at Gardencourt, and found him
extremely ilL He has been getting worse every year, and now
he has no strength left. He smokes no more cigarettes ! He
had got up an artificial climate indeed; the house was as hot as
Calcutta. Nevertheless, he had suddenly taken it into his head
to start for Sicily. I didn't believe in it — neither did the
doctors, nor any of his friends. His mother, as I suppose you
know, is in America, so there was no one to prevent him. He
stuck to his idea that it would be the saving of him to spend the
winter at Catania. He said he could take servants and furni-
ture, and make himself comfortable ; but in point of fact he
hasn't brought anything. I wanted him at least to go by sea, to
save fatigue ; but he said he hated the sea, and wished to stop
at Eome. After that, though I thought it all rubbish, I made
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 231
up my mind to come with him. I am acting as — what do you
call it in America ] — as a kind of moderator. Poor Touchett's
very moderate now. We left England a fortnight ago, and he
has been very bad on the way. He can't keep warm, and the
farther south we come the more he feels the cold. He has got
a rather good man, but I'm afraid he's beyond human help. If
you don't mind my saying so, I think it was a most extraordinary
time for Mrs. Touchett to choose for going to America."
Isabel had listened eagerly ; her face was full of pain and
''My aunt does that at fixed periods, 'and she lets nothing
turn her aside. When the date comes round she starts ; I think
she would have started if Ralph had been dying."
" I sometimes think he is dying," Lord Warburton said.
Isabel started up.
" I will go to him now ! "
He checked her; he was a little disconcerted at the quick
effect of his words.
" I don't mean that I thought so to-night. On the contrary,
to-day, in the train, he seemed particularly well; the idea of our
reaching Rome — ^he is very fond of Rome, you know — gave him
strength. An hour ago, when I bade him good night, he told
me that he was very tired, but very happy. Go to him in the
morning ; that's all I mean. I didn't tell him I was coming
here; I didn't think of it till after we separated. Then I
remembered that he had told me that you had an evening, and
that it was this very Thursday. It occurred to me to come in
and tell you that he was here, and let you know that you had
perhaps better not wait for him to calL I think he said he had
not written to ypu." There was no need of Isabel's declaring
that she would act upon Lord Warburton's information; she
232 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
looked, as she sat there, like a winged creature held back.
" Let alone that I wanted to see you for myself," her visitor
" I don't understand Ealph's plan ; it seems to me very wild,"
she said. " I was glad to think of him between those thick
walls at Gardencourt."
" He was completely alone there ; the thick walls were his
" You went to see him ; you have been extremely kind."
" Oh dear, I had nothing to do," said Lord Warburton.
" We hear, on the contrary, that you are doing great things.
Every one speaks of you as a great statesman, and I am per-
petually seeing your name in the Times, which, by the way,
doesn't appear to hold it in reverence. You are apparently as
bold a radical as ever."
" I don't feel nearly so bold ; you know the world has come
round to me. Touchett and I have kept up a sort of Parliament-
ary debate, all the way from London. I tell him he is the last
of the Tories, and he calls me the head of the Communists. So
you see there is life in him yet."
Isabel had many questions to ask about Ealph, but she
abstained from asking them aU. She would see for herself on
the morrow. She perceived that after a little Lord Warburton
would tire of that subject — that he had a consciousness of other
possible topics. She was more and more able to say to herself
that he had recovered, and, what is more to the point, she was
able to say it without bitterness. He had been for her, of old,
such an image of urgency, of insistence, of something to be
resisted and reasoned with, that his reappearance at first
menaced her with a new trouble. But she was now reassured ;
she could see that he only wished to live with her on good terms,
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 233
that she was to understand that he had forgiven her and was
incapable of the bad taste of making pointed allusions. This
was not a form of revenge, of course ; she had no suspicion that
he wished to punish her by an exhibition of disillusionment ;
she did him the justice to believe that it had simply occurred to
him that she would now take a good-natured interest in knowing
that he was resigned. It was the resignation of a healthy,
manly nature, in which sentimental wounds could never fester.
British poUtics had cured him; she had known they would.
She gave an envious thought to the happier lot of men, who are
always free to plunge into the healing waters of action. Lord
Warburton of course spoke of the past, but he spoke of it with-
out implication ; he even went so far as to allude to their former
meeting in Eome as a very jolly time. And he told her that
he had been immensely interested in hearing of her marriage —
that it was a great pleasure to him to make Mr. Osmond's ac-
quaintance — since he could hardly be said to have made it on the
other occasion. He had not written to her when she married,
but he did not apologise to her for that. The only thing he
implied was that they were old friends, intimate friends. It was
very much as an intimate friend that he said to her, suddenly,
after a short pause which he had occupied in smiling, a& he
looked about him, like a man to whom everything suggested a
cheerful interpretation —
" Well now, I suppose you are very happy, and all that sort
of thing 1 "
Isabel answered with a quick laugh ; the tone of his remark
struck her almost as the accent of comedy.
" Do you suppose if I were not I would tell you 1 "
" Well, I don't know. I don't see why not."
" I do, then. Fortunately, however, I am very happy."
234 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
" You have got a very good house."
" Yes, it's very pleasant. But that's not my merit — ^it's my
" You mean that he has arranged iti **
" Yes, it was nothing when we came."
" He must be very clever."
" He has a genius for upholstery," said IsabeL
" There is a great rage for that sort of thing now. But you
must have a taste of your own."
" I enjoy things when they are done ; but I have no ideas. I
can never propose anything."
" Do you mean that you accept what others propose 1 "
'* Very willingly, for the most part."
" That's a good thing to know. I shall propose you some-
" It will be very kind. I must say, however, that I have in
a few small ways a certain initiative. I should like, for instance,
to introduce you to some of these people."
" Oh, please don't ; I like sitting here. Unless it be to that
young lady in the blue dress. She has a charming face."
" The one talking to the rosy young man 1 That's my hus-
" Lucky man, your husband. What a dear little maid ! "
" You must make her acquaintance."
" In a moment, with pleasure. I like looking at her fiwm
here." He ceased to look at her, however, very soon ; his eyes
constantly reverted to Mrs. Osmond. " Do you know I was
wrong just now in saying that you had changed 1 " he presently
went on. " You seem to me, after all, very much the same."
" And yet I find it's a great change to be married," said Isabel,
THE PORTRAIT OF A lADY. 235
" It affects most people more than it has affected you. You
see I haven't gone in for that"
" It rather surprises me."
'* You ought to understand it, Mrs. Osmond. But I want to
marry," he added, more simply.
"It ought to be very easy," Isabel said, rising, and then
blushing a little at the thought that she was hardly the person
to say this. It was perhaps because Lord Warburton noticed
her blush that he generously forbore to call her attention to the
Edward Hosier meanwhile had seated himself on an ottoman
beside Pansy's tea-table. He pretended at first to talk to her
about trifles, and she asked him who was the new gentleman
conversing with her stepmother.
" He's an English lord," said Eosier. " I don't know more."
" I wonder if he will have some tea. The English are so fond
''ISTever mind that; I have something particular to say to
"Don't speak so loud, or every one will hear us," said
" They won't hear us if you continue to look that way : as if
your only thought in life was the wish that the kettle would
" It has just been filled ; the servants never know ! " the
young girl exclaimed, with a little sigh.
" Do you know what your father said to me just nowl That
you didn't mean what you said a week ago."
"I don't mean everything I say. How can a young girl do
that 1 But I mean what I say to you."
" He told me that you had forgotten me."
236 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
'^ Ah no, I don't forget," said Pansy, showing her pretty teeth
in a fixed smile.
" Then everything is just the same I "
'^ Ah no, it's not just the same. Papa has been very severe. "
" What has he done to you 1 "
^' He asked me what you had done to me, and I told him
everything. Then he forbade me to marry you."
" You needn't mind that."
" Oh yes, I must indeed. I can't disobey papa."
" Not for one who loves you as I do, and whom you pretend
to love 1 "
Pansy raised the lid of the tea-pot, gazing into this vessel for
a moment ; then she dropped six words into its aromatic depths.
" I love you just as much."
" What good will that do me 1 "
" Ah," said Pansy, raising her sweet, vague eyes, " I don't
" You disappoint me," groaned poor Hosier.
Pansy was silent a moment ; she handed a tearcup to a
" Please don't talk any more."
'' Is this to be all my satisfeu^tion 1 "
" Papa said I was not to talk with you."
'' Do you sacrifice me like that ) Ah, it's too much ! "
" I wish you would wait, a little," said the young girl, in a
voice just distinct enough to betray a quaver.
'* Of course I will wait if you will give me hope. But you
take my life away."
" I will not give you up — oh, no ! " Pansy went on.
" He will try and make you marry some one else."
" I will never do that."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 237
"What then are we to wait fori"
She hesitated a moment.
" I will speak to Mrs. Osmond, and she will help us." It
was in this manner that she for the most part designated her
" She won't help us much. She is afraid."
"Afraid of what 1"
" Of your father, I suppose."
Pansy shook her little head.
" She is not afraid of any one ! We must have patience."
" Ah, that's an awful word," Kosier groaned ; he was deeply
disconcerted. Oblivious of the customs of good society, he
dropped his head into his hands, and, supporting it with a
melancholy grace, sat staring at the carpet. Presently he became
aware of a good deal of movement about him, and when he
looked up saw Pansy making a curtsey — it was still her little
curtsey of the convent — to the English lord whom Mrs. Osmond
238 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
It probably will not be surprising to the reflective reader that
Ralph Touchett should have seen less of his cousin since her
marriage than he had done before that event — an event of which
he took such a view as could hardly prove a conflrmation of
intimacy. He had uttered his thought, as we know, and after
this he had held his peace, Isabel not having invited him to
resume a discussion which marked an era in their relations.
That discussion had made a difference — ^the difference that he
feared, rather than the one he hoped. It had not chilled the
girFs zeal in carrying out her engagement, but it had come
dangerously near to spoiling a friendship. 'No reference was
ever again made between them to Ralph's opinion of Gilbert
Osmond ; and by surrounding this topic with a sacred silence,
they managed to preserve a semblance of reciprocal frankness.
But there was a difference, as Ralph often said to himself — there
was a difference. She had not forgiven him^ she never would
forgive him ; that was all he had gained. She thought she had
forgiven him ; she believed she didn't care ; and as she was
both very generous and very proud, these convictions represented
a certain reality. But whether or no the event should justify
him, he would virtually have done her a wrong, and the wrong
was of the sort that women remember best. As Osmond's wife,
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 239
9he could never again be his friend. If in this character she
should enjoy the felicity she expected, she would have nothing
but contempt for the man who had attempted, in advance, to
undermine a blessing so dear; and if on the other hand his
warning should be justified, the vow she had taken that he
should never know it, would lay upon her spirit a burden that
would make her hate him. Such had been, during the year that
followed his cousin's marriage, Ralph's rather dismal prevision
of the fature; and if his meditations appear morbid we must
remember that he was not in the bloom of health. He consoled
himself as he might by behaving (as he deemed) beautifully, and
was present at the ceremony by which Isabel was united to Mr.
Osmond, and which was performed in Florence in the month of
June. He learned from his mother that Isabel at first had
thoughts of celebrating her nuptials in her native land, but that
as simplicity was what she chiefly desired to secure, she had
finally decided, in spite of Osmond's professed willingness to
make a journey of any length, that this characteristic would
best be preserved by their being married by the nearest clergy-
man in the shortest time. The thing was done, therefore, at
the little American chapel, on a very hot day, in the presence
only of Mrs. Touchett and her son, of Pansy Osmond and the
Countess Gemini. That severity in the proceedings of which I
just spoke, was in part the result of the absence of two persons
who might have been looked for on the occasion, and who would
have lent it a certain richness. Madame Merle had been invited,
but Madame Merle, who was unable to leave Eome, sent a
gracious letter of excuses. Henrietta Stackpole had not been
invited, as her departure from America, announced to Isabel by
Mr. Goodwood, was in fact frustrated by the duties of her pro-
fession ; but she had sent a letter^ less gracious than Madame
240 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Merle's, intimating that had she been able to cross the Atlantic,
she would have been present not only as a witness bnt as a
critic. Her return to Europe took place somewhat later, and
she effected a meeting with Isabel in the autumn, in Paris, when
she indulged — perhaps a trifle too freely — ^her critical genius.
Poor Osmond, who was chiefly the subject of it, protested so
sharply that Henrietta was obliged to declare to Isabel that she
had taken a step which erected a barrier between them. '* It
isn't in the least that you have married — ^it is that you have
married ^zm," she deemed it her duty to remark ; agreeing, it
will be seen, much more with Ralph Touchett than she suspected,
though she had few of his hesitations and compunctions. Hen-
rietta's second visit to Europe, however, was not made in vain ;
for just at the moment when Osmond had declared to Isabel
that he really must object to that newspaper-woman, and Isabel
had answered that it seemed to her he took Henrietta too hard,
the good Mr. Bantling appeared upon the scene and proposed
that they should take a run down to Spain. Henrietta's letters
from Spain proved to be the most picturesque she had yet pub-
lished, and there was one in especial, dated from the Alhambra,
and entitled 'Moors and Moonlight,' which generally passed
for her masterpiece. Isabel was secretly disappointed at her
husband's not having been able to judge the poor girl more
humorously. She even wondered whether his sense of humour
were by chance defective. Of course she herself looked at the
matter as a person whose present happiness had nothing to
grudge to Henrietta's violated conscience. Osmond thought
their alliance a kind of monstrosity ; he couldn't imagine what
they had in common. For him, Mr. Bantling's fellow-tourist
was simply the most vulgar of women, and he also pronounced
her the most abandoned. Against this latter clause of the
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 241
verdict Isabel protested with an ardour which made him wonder
afresh at the oddity of some of his wife's tastes. Isabel could
explain it only by saying that she liked to know people who
were as different as possible from herself. " Why then don't
you make the acquaintance of your washerwoman?" Osmond
had inquired ; to which Isabel answered that she was afraid her
washerwoman wouldn't care for her. Now Henrietta cared so
Ralph saw nothing of her for the greater part of the two years
that followed her marriage ; the winter that formed the beginning
of her residence in Eome he spent again at San Eemo, where he
was joined in the spring by his mother, who afterwards went
with him to England, to see what they were doing at the bank
—an operation she could not induce him to perform. Ealph
had taken a lease of his house at San Remo, a small villa, which
he occupied still another winter ; but late in the month of Api^il
of this second year he came down to Rome. It was the first
time since her marriage that he had stood face to face with
Isabel ; his desire to see her again was of the keenest. She had
written to him from time to time, but her letters told him nothing
that he wanted to know. He had asked his mother what she
was making of her life, and his mother had simply answered
that she supposed she was making the best of it. Mrs. Touchett
had not the imagination that communes with the unseen, and
ghe now pretended to no intimacy with her niece, whom she
rarely encountered. This young woman appeared to be living
in a sufficiently honourable way, but Mi-s. Touchett still remained
of the opinion that her marriage was a shalby affair. It gave
her no pleasure to think of Isabel's establishment, which she
was sure was a very lame business. From time to time, in
Florence, she rubbed against the Countess Gemini, doing her
VOL. n. R
242 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
best, always, to minimise the contact; and the Countess reminded
her of Osmond, who made her think of IsabeL The Countess
was less talked about in these days ; but Mis. Touchett augured
no good of that ; it only proved how she had been talked about
before. There was a more direct suggestion of Isabel in the
person of Madame Merle ; but Madame Merle's relations with
Mrs. Touchett had undergone a perceptible change. Isabel's aunt
had told her, without circumlocution, that she had played too
ingenious a part; and Madame Merle, who never quarrelled
with any one, who appeared to think no one worth it, and who
had performed the miracle of living, more or less, for several
years with Mrs. Touchett, without a symptom of irritation —
Madame Merle now took a very high tone, and declared that
this was an accusation from which she could not stoop to defend
herself. She added, however (without stooping), that her
behaviour had been only too simple, that she had believed only
what she saw, that she saw that Isabel was not eager to many,
and that Osmond was not eager to please (his repeated visits
were nothing ; he was boring himself to death on his hill-top,
and he came merely for amusement). Isabel had kept her
sentiments to herself, and her journey to Greece and Egypt
had effectually thrown dust in her companion's eyes. Madame
Merle accepted the event — she was unprepared to think of it as
a scandal ; but that she had played any part in it, double or
single, was an imputation against which she proudly protested.
It was doubtless in consequence of Mrs. Touchett's attitude
and of the injury it offered to habits consecrated by many
charming seasons, that Madame Merle, after this, chose to
pass many, months in England, where her credit was quite
unimpaired. Mrs. Touchett had done her a wrong ; there are
some things that can't be forgiven. But Madame Merle suf-
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 243
fered in silence ; there was always something exquisite in her
Ealph, as I say, had wished to see for himself ; hut while he
was engaged in this pursuit he felt afresh what a fool he had
been to put the girl on her guard. He had played the wrong
card, and now he had lost the game. He should see nothing, he
should learn nothing ; for him she would always wear a mask.
His true line would have been to profess delight in her marriage,
so that later, when, as Ealph phrased it, the bottom should fall
out of • it, she might have the pleasure of saying to him that he
had been a goose. He would gladly have consented to pass for
a goose in order to know Isabers real situation. But now she
neither taunted him with his fallacies nor pretended that her
own confidence was justified ; if she wore a mask, it completely
covered her face. There was something fixed and mechanical in
the serenity painted upon it; this was not an expression, Ealph
paid — it was a representation. She had lost her child ; that was
a sorrow, but it was a sorrow she ' scarcely spoke of ; there was
more to say about it than she could say to Ealph. It belonged
to the past) moreover ; it had occurred six months before, and
she had already laid aside the tokens of mourning. She seemed
to be leading a life of the world; Ealph heard her spoken
of as having a "charming position." He observed that she
produced the impression of being peculiarly enviable, that it was
supposed, among many people, to be a privilege even to know
her. Her house was not open to every one, and she had an
evening in the week, to which people were not invited as a
matter of course. She lived with a certain magnificence, but
you needed to be a member of her circle to perceive it ; for there
was nothing to gape at, nothing to criticise, nothing even to
admire, in the daily proceedings of Mr. and Mrs. Osmond •
244 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Ealph, in all this, recognised the hand of the master ; for he
knew that Isabel had no faculty for producing calculated impress
sions. . She struck him as having a great love of movement, of
gaiety, of late hours, of long drives, of fatigue ; an eagerness
to be entertained, to be interested, even to be bored, to make
acquaintances, to see people that were talked about, to explore
the neighbourhood of Kome, to enter into relation with certain
of the mustiest relics of its old society. In all this there was
much less discrimination than in that desire for comprehen-
siveness of development on which he used to exercise his wit.
There was a kind of violence in some of her impulses, of crudity
in some of her experiments, which took him by surprise; it
seemed to him that she even spoke faster, moved faster, than
before her marriage. Certainly she had fallen into exaggerations
— she who used to care so much for the pure truth; and whereas
of old she had a great delight in good-humoured argument, in
intellectual play (she never looked so charming as when in the
genial heat of discussion she received a crushing blow full in the
face and brushed it away as a feather), she appeared now to
think there was nothing worth people's either differing about or
agreeing upon. Of old she had been curious, and now she was
indifferent, and yet in spite of her indifference her activity was
greater than ever. Slender still, but lovelier than before, she
had gained no great maturity of aspect ; but there was a kind of
amplitude and brilliancy in her personal arrangements which
gave a touch of insolence to her beauty. Poor human-hearted
Isabel, what perversity had bitten her ? Her light step drew a
mass of drapery behind it; her intelligent head sustained a
majesty of ornament. The free, keen girl had become quite
another person ; what he saw was the fine lady who was supposed
to represent something. " What did Isabel represent ? " Ealph
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 24 5
asked himself ; and he could answer only by saying that she
represented Gilbert Osmond. " Good heavens, what a function ! ' »
he exclaimed. He was lost in wonder at the mystery of things.
He recognised Osmond, as I say ; he recognised him at every
turn. He saw how he kept all things within limits ; how he
adjusted, regulated, animated their manner of life. Osmond
was in his element ; at last he had material to work with. He
always had an eye to effect; and his effects were elaborately
studied. They were produced by no vulgar means, but the
motive was as vulgar as the art was great. To surround his
interior with a sort of invidious sanctity, to tantalise society
with a sense of exclusion, to make people believe his house was
different from every other, to impart to the face that he presented
to the world a cold originality — this was the ingenious effort qi
the personage to whom Isabel had attributed a superior morality.
" He works with superior material," Ealph said to himself ;
" but it's rich abundance compared with his former resources."
Ealph was a clever man; but Ralph had never — to his own
sense — been so clever as when he observed, in petfo, that under
the guise of caring only for intrinsic values, Osmond lived
exclusively for the world. . Far from being its master, as he
pretended to be, he was its Yeiy humble servant, and the degree
of its attention was his only measure of success. He lived with
his eye on it, from morning till night, and the world was so
stupid it never suspected the trick. Everything he did was pose
— pose so deeply calculated that if one were not on the look-
out one mistook it for impulse. Ralph had never met a man
who lived so much in the land of calculation. His tastes,
his studies, his accomplishments, his collections, were all for a
purpose. His life on his hill-top at Florence had been a pose of
years. His solitude, his ennui, his love for his daughter, his
246 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
good manners, his bad manners, were so many features of a
mental image constantly present to him as a model of imperti-
nence and mystification. His ambition was not to please the
world, but to please himself by exciting the world's curiosity
and then declining to satisfy it. It made him feel great to play
the world a trick. The thing he had done in his life most
directly to please himself was his marrying Isabel Archer;
though in this case indeed the gullible world was in a manner
embodied in poor Isabel, who had been mystified to the top of
her bent. Ealph of course found a fitness in being consistent;
he had embraced a creed, and as he had suffered for it he could
not in honour forsake it. I give this little sketch of its articles
for what they are worth. It was certain that he was very
skilful in fitting the facts to his theory — even the fact that
during the month he spent in Rome at this period Gilbert
Osmond appeared to regard him not in the least as an enemy*
For Mr. Osmond Ralph had not now that importance. It was
not that he had the importance of a friend ; it was rather that
he had none at all. He was Isabel's cousin, and he was rathet
unpleasantly ill — it was on this basis that Osmond treated with
him. He made the proper inquiries, asked about his health,
about Mrs. Touchett, about his opinion of winter climates,
whether he was comfortable at his hotel He addressed him, on
the few occasions of their meeting, not a word that was not
necessary ; but his manner had always the urbanity proper to
conscious success in the presence of conscious failure. For all
this, Ralph had, towards the end, an inward conviction that
Osmond had made it uncomfortable for his wife that she should
continue to receive her cousin. He was not jealous — he had not
that excuse ; no one could be jealous of Ralph. But he made
Isabel pay for her old-time kindness, of which so much was still
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. ^47
left ; and as Ralph had no idea of her paying too much, when
his suspicion had hecome sharp, he took himself off. In doing
so he deprived Isahel of a very interesting occupation : she had
heen constantly wondering what fine principle kept him alive.
She decided that it was his love of conversation ; his convers-
ation was hetter than ever. He had given up walking ; he was
no longer a humorous stroller. He sat all day in a chair —
almost any chair would do, and was so dependent on what you
would do for him that, had not his talk heen highly contempla-
tive, you might have thought he was blind. The reader already
knows more about him than Isabel was ever to know, and the
reader may therefore be given the key to the mystery. What
kept Ralph alive was simply the fact that he had not yet seen
enough of his cousin ; he was not yet satisfied. There was more
to come ; he couldn*t make up his mind to lose that. He wished
to see what she would make of her husband — or what he would
make of her. This was only the first act of the drama, and he
was determined to sit out the performance. His determination
held good ) it kept him going some eighteen months more, till
the time of his return to Rome with Lord Warburton. It gave
him indeed such an air of intending to live indefinitely that Mrs.
Touchett, though more accessible to confusions of thought in the
matter of this strange, unremunerative — and unremunerated —
son of hers than she had ever been before, had, as we have
learned, not scrupled to embark for a distant land. If Ralph
had been kept alive by suspense, it was with a good deal of the
same emotion — the excitement of wondering in what state she
should find him— that Isabel ascended to his apartment the day
after Lord Warburton had notified her of his arrival in Rome.
She spent an hour with him ; it was the first of several visits.
Gilbert Osmond called on him punctually, and on Isabel sending
248 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
a carriage for him Ealph came more than once to the Palazzo
Eoccanera. A fortnight elapsed, at the end of which Ealph
announced to Lord Warburton that he thought after all he
wouldn't go to Sicily. The two men had been dining together
after a day spent by the latter in ranging about the Campagna.
Tliey had left the table, and Warburton, before the chimney,
was lighting a cigar, which he instantly removed from his
" Won't go to Sicily ? Where then will you go 1 "
" Well, I guess I won't go anywhere," said Kalph, from the
sofa, in a tone of jocosity.
" Do you mean that you wiU return to England 1 "
'* Oh dear no ; I will stay in Rome."
** Eome won't do for you ; it's not warm enough."
" It will have to do ; I will make it do. See how well I have
Lord Warburton looked at him a while, pufi&ng his cigar, as
if he were trying to see it.
" You have been better than you were on the journey,
certainly. I wonder how you lived through that. But I
don't understand your condition. I recommend you to try
" I can't try," said poor Ealph ; " I can't move further. I
can't face that journey. Fancy me between Scylla and Charyb-
dis ! I. don't want to die on the Sicilian plains — to be snatched
away, like Proserpine in the same locality, to the Plutonian
"What the deuce then did you come fori" his lordship
" Because the idea took me. I see it won't do. It really
doesn't matter where I am now. I've exhausted all remedies.
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 249
IVe swallowed all climates. As I^m here 1^11 stay ; I haven't
got any cousins in Sicily."
"Your cousin is certainly an inducement. But what does
the doctor sav 1 "
" I haven't asked him, and I don't care a fig. If I die here
Mrs. Osmond will bury me. But I shall not die here."
** I hope not." Lord Warburton continued to smoke reflect-
ively. " Well, I must say," he resumed, " for myself I am very
glad you don't go to Sicily. I had a horror of that journey."
" Ah, but for you it needn't have mattered. I had no idea of
dragging you in my train."
" I certainly didn't mean to let you go alone."
" My dear Warburton, I never expected you to come further
than this," Ealph cried.
" I should have gone with you and seen you settled," said
" You are a very good fellow. You are very kind."
" Then I should have come back here."
" And then you would have gone to England."
" No, no ; I should have stayed."
" Well," said Ralph, ** if that's what we are both up to, I
don't see where Sicily comes in I "
His companion was silent; he sat staring at the fire. At
last, looking up —
" I say, tell me this," he broke out ; " did . you really mean to
go to Sicily when we started 1 "
" Ah, vouB Tfien demandez trop I Let me put a question first.
Did you come with me quite — platonically 1 "
" I don't know what you mean by that. I wanted to come
" I suspect we have each been playing our little game."
250 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY..
" Speak for yourself. I made no secret whatever of my
wanting to be here a while."
" Yes, I remember you said you wished to see the Minister of
" I have seen him three times ; he is very amusing."
"I think you have forgotten what you came for," said
** Perhaps I have," his companion answered, rather gravely.
These two gentlemen were children of a race which is not
distinguished by the absence of reserve, and they had travelled
together from Loudon to Rome without an allusion to matters
that were uppermost in the mind of each. There was an old
subject that they had once discussed, but it had lost its recognised
place in their attention, and even after their arrival in Eome,
where many things led back to it, they had kept the same half-
diffident, half-confident silence.
" I recommend you to get the doctor's consent, all the same,"
Lord Warburton went on, abruptly, after an interval
" The doctor's consent will spoil it ; I never have it when I
can help it ! "
"What does Mrs; Osmond think?"
" I have not told her. She will probably say that Eome is
too cold, and even offer to go with me to Catania. She is
capable of that."
" In your place I should like it."
" Her husband won't like it."
" Ah well, I can fancy that ; though it seems to me you are
not bound to mind it. It's his affair."
" I don't want to make any more trouble between them," said
" Is there so much already 1 "
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 261
"There's complete preparation for it. Her going off with me
would make the explosion. Osmond isn't fond of his wife's
" Then of course he would make a row. But won't he make
a row if you stop here 1 "
" That's what I want to see. He made one the last time I
was in Rome, and then I thought it my duty to go away. Now
I think it's my duty to stop and defend her."
" My dear Touchett, your defensive powers — " Lord War-
hurton began, with a smile. But he saw something in his com-
panion's face that checked him. " Your duty, in these premises,
seems to me rather a nice question," he said.
Ralph for a short time answered nothing.
" It is true that my defensive powers are small," he remarked
at last ; " but as my aggressive ones are still smaller, Osmond
may, after all, not think me worth his gunpowder. At any
rate," he added, " there are things I am curious to see."
" You are sacrificing your health to your curiosity then ^ "
" I am not much interested in my health, and I am deeply
interested in Mrs. Osmond."
" So am L But not as I once was," Lord Warburton added
quickly. This was one of the allusions he had not hitherto
found occasion to make.
"Does she strike you as very happy 1" Ralph inquired,
emboldened by this confidence.
" Well, I don't know ; I have hardly thought She told me
the other night that she was happy."
" Ah, she told you, of course," Ralph exclaimed, smiling.
" I don't know that. It seems to me I was rather the sort of
person she might have complained to."
" Complain 1 She will never complain. She has done it.
252 THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
and she knows it. . She will complain to you least of all. She
is very careful."
" She needn't be. I don't mean to make love to her again."
" I am delighted to hear it ; there can b« no doubt at least of
" Ah no," said Lord Warburton, gravely ; " none ! "
" Permit me to ask," Kalph went on, " whether it is to bring
out the fact that you don't mean to make love to her that you
are so very civil to the little girl 1 "
Lord Warburton gave a slight start; he got up and stood
before the fire, blushing a little.
" Does that strike you as very ridiculous 1 "
" Ridiculous 1 Not in the least, if you really like her."
" I think her a delightful little person. I don't know when
a girl of that age has pleased me more."
" She's a charming creature. Ah, she at least is genuine."
"Of course there's the difference in our ages — more than
" My dear Warburton," said Ralph, " are you serious 1 "
" Perfectly serious — as far as I've got"
" I am very glad. And, heaven help us," cried Ralph, " how
tickled Gilbert Osmond will be ! "
His companion frowned.
" I say, don't spoil it I shan't marry his daughter to please
" He will have the perversity to be pleased all the same."
" He's not so fond of me as that," said his lordship.
"As thati My dear Warburton, the drawback of your
position is that people needn't be fond of you at all to wish to
be connected with you. Now, with me in such a case, I should
have the happy confidence that they loved me."
THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY. 253
Lord Warburton seemed scarcely to be in the mood for doing
justice to general axioms ; he was thinking of a special case.
" Do you think she^ll be pleased ? "
" The girl herself ? DeHghted, surely."
" No, no ; I mean Mrs. Osmond."
Ealph looked at him a moment.
" My dear fellow, what has she to do with it 1 "
" Whatever she chooses. She is very fond of the girl."
" Very true — very true." And Ealph slowly got up. *' It's
an interesting question — how far her fondness for the girl will
carry her." He stood there a moment with his hands in his
pockets, with a rather sombre eye. " I hope, you know, that'
you are very — very sure — The deuce 1 " he broke off, " I don't
know how to say it."
" Yes, you do ; you know how to say everything."
" Well, it's awkward. I hope you are sure that among Miss
Osmond's merits her being a — so near her stepmother isn't a
leading one ] "
" Good heavens, Touchett ! " cried Lord Warburton, angrily,
" for what do you take me ? "
END OP VOL. II.
CLAY AND TAVLOB, PRINTERS,